082 Artist Mohau Modisakeng performs Barongwa where he depicts his experience of growing up with the rich narratives of his mother's visions and dreams during the Grahamstown Arts Festival. This year is the 40th anniversary of the festival. 060714. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

If one thinks in cliches like “fathers like sons” or “the sins of the fathers”, the one that seems most apt for Daniel Buckland and Atandwa Kani is “crowning glory”.

Following in their fathers’ footsteps, Andrew Buckland’s Daniel and John Kani’s Atandwa are both building on the family legacy in an extraordinary way.

If you look at it from a narrow perspective, you might say that their entry into the world of theatre was made easier by their fathers’ extraordinary careers, but it’s a cruel and unforgiving world and while they might have gained from the name recognition, the spotlight would also have been more glaring than for other newcomers.

And for how long do we think of these young men as their fathers’ sons?

The link is now a flattering one to both sides. If you take their shows at this year’s National Arts Festival, they have both established stage careers on their own terms.

What makes it even more special is that the fathers are also on the boards with their own latest productions: John Kani in the self-penned, acclaimed Missing, which has just finished a run at Joburg’s Market Theatre, while Andrew Buckland is in On The Harmful Effects of Tobacco, directed by Sylvaine Strike, which has everyone talking at the festival and with Buckland’s performance a mesmerising one.

Daniel Buckland, also directed by Strike, with whom he has worked in two productions before acting in the The Travellers and as assistant director for The Butcher Brothers, stars in the hugely entertaining and provocative The God Complex.

It’s one that spotlights especially his physical theatre skills, which seem to be a birthright for a Buckland sibling, but we know it doesn’t come as easy as that. It has always been his metier and his mastery shows quite magnificently.

What makes this such a special turn is that he has established his own persona, an embracing smile that’s as wide as the world and some special tricks from his stint with Cirque du Soleil, which forms a huge part of this amazing tale told with both bravura and brilliance.

Atandwa Kani also steps into the festival ring with Strike, but this time as acting partner in a restaging of Black and Blue, conceptualised by Strike and staged in 2004, establishing her particular signature style.

Playing a character quite a bit older than himself, perhaps closer to his father in age, one cannot but smile at the resemblance between the older and younger Kani.

There’s also something in some of the intonation and the striking family signature laugh.

But except for talent that’s overflowing, that’s where the comparison ends. Kani has long shown that he is his own man on stage and he does it again in this joyous coming together of two people grasping at something they believe just out of their reach.

And that is the miracle of these sons determined to slip onto stage in spite, rather than because of, their fathers’ looming shadows in careers difficult to sustain.

Their fathers are still at the top of their game, but these two youngsters, undaunted, are succeeding in their own right.


Diane de Beer’s top five Festival experiences:

• The wizardry of Andrew Buckland in The Harmful Effects of Tobacco, while using all his artistry and wisdom in a spectacular performance which is blissful to savour.

• The stepping up of young Turks like Wessel Pretorius (Undone) and Daniel Buckland (The God Complex) to announce their determination to claim their artistic thrones.

• The arrival of the chillier temperatures, which is what everyone expects and are geared for, and we expect the arts to keep our hearts warm – that and finding the hottest coffee spots in town.

• Bumping into some of our best artists like Brett Bailey, Lara Foot and James Ngcobo, all running in between shows to catch up on the work of their fellow artists.

• Witnessing Sylvaine Strike as the featured artist at the 40th celebratory year, producing one show after another, all of a quality that’s inspiring and inspired.