Firefly by Sylvaine Strike and Andrew Buckland

Where and when: Pieter Toerien’s Theatre On the Bay, Cape Town, April 28 to May 13, 2023
Performers: Andrew Buckland and Sylvaine Strike
Director: Toni Morkel
Text: Sylvaine Strike and Andrew Buckland- devised in collaboration with the company
Accompanied on piano: Tony Bentel
Bookings: Webtickets
Age restriction: PG10
Duration: 75-minutes, no interval

Andrew Buckland and Sylvaine Strike are beguiling in the lyrical , Firefly, currently on at Theatre on The Bay in Cape Town, until May 13, 2023. They are dazzling in their artistry and visceral stage presence – with breathtaking clowning, physical comedy and storytelling and are accompanied at the piano (actually keyboards) by the legendary Tony Bentel. Together- Buckland, Strike and Betel – conjure up vivid stories through various sets of couples which includes Ferine and Ferase (the original title of the show). We see coupling and uncoupling in this beautiful luminescent show. As with fireflies, Buckland and Strike glow on the stage.

Firefly is described in the media release as “two ill-fated lovers whose forbidden love is ignited by full moons and fireflies” and that provides an inkling of the trajectory of this theatre piece but I am wary of writing what it is ‘about’. The power of Firefly is that it spools out in a liminal space – and within that the characters emanate through boundaries and gaps, rivers and divides and channels, as they regale us with stories and tales. There is a mansion and a crooked house, fireflies, moons, an etymologist. Vivid imagery springs out as curtains are peeled back- swished around on the stage space – concealing and revealing the performers.

Protagonists are there and then they are not. Are they ‘gone’ or ‘gone-gone’- ie gone for ever- or hovering and dangling and about to return at any moment? In the beginning we see this question raised – ‘gone’ or ‘gone-gone’. Love and loving is not easy – as people leave and return – or do not return – or emanate as if in a dream – and then leave. It may all seem like a dream. Were they really there or not? Love, connection, betrayal, duplicity: It is poignant, wistful, and contemplative. Within that- there is joy, love and passion- and reaching major highs. There is song (wow to Buckland and Strike- suddenly they are singing) – brimming with longing and yearning – another beautiful layer to Firefly. Toni Morkel in the director’s seat has masterfully woven the layering of performance, movement, voice and movement,

Before the show, I spoke to several people who saw Firefly at a season at the Baxter and when asked about the show, they said that Firefly is “magical”. Other comments: “I cannot pin down the story but I loved it” and “I can’t describe it. It is magical”. I agree, Firefly is a magical theatre experience.  I think it goes beyond magical and fable and mythical lovers on stage.  I loved the lyricism and luminous manifestation of Buckland and Strike who literally glow on stage – swathed, wrapped and swaddled in the curtains.

We hear the melodies from Tony Bentel’s keyboard, which is an extension of the physical coupling and un-coupling and clowning.  It is a show which pulls one into the glow of the artists and their mastery, as we become immersed in the stories. I loved the ambiguity of the ending which taps again into the construct of ‘gone’ or ‘gone-gone’. How does it all end – within the liminal flow of fireflies and moons as we dance around each other- connecting in moments of bliss? Then in a swish, it may be ‘gone’ or perhaps it is ‘gone-gone’ and the person will suddenly be there. If it was all a dream or imagined – who is to say that is not ‘real’? Firefly is lyrical and meditative. This is beguiling theatre.

Firefly: Sylvaine Strike and Andrew Buckland. Pic: Nardus Engelbrecht.

✳ Production images by Nardus Engelbrecht.