Man of many faces has lots to do

David Muller, actor, raconteur, family man and Muizenberg resident speaks about the stages of his life.

There’s a to-do list on David Muller’s table that grows throughout our conversation. This is symbolic of the man of many faces, a renowned Muizenberg resident, and an artist, husband, father, who is committed to ongoing growth.

A mercurial mind paired with wit and compassion, David may be best known for his character of Oom Schalk, the Herman Charles Bosman storyteller from the Groot Marico, whose hurrumphing and old man antics are well oiled, as are the stories that run off his tongue: filled with fullness, and the alternate spaces and stillness, of the place and people those stories come from.

A mercurial mind paired with wit and compassion, David may be best known for his character of Oom Schalk, the Herman Charles Bosman storyteller from the Groot Marico, whose hurrumphing and old man antics are well oiled, as are the stories that run off his tongue: filled with fullness, and the alternate spaces and stillness, of the place and people those stories come from.

Or possibly he is best known for his portrayal of Albert Einstein in Imagining Einstein which is an exploration of Einstein’s life, science and the world around him, opening to audiences in this day and age the beauties of rational thought.
This one, David says, instilled a logical and reasonable thinking in his own mind when he presented it back to back for about a month, in Lesotho, Namibia and across the breadth of South Africa.

Actors, he says with a sideways glance and half grin, are not particularly reasonable beings. On account of their over-active imaginations, he says. Dangers of the job, and all. “My imagination has been honed so much I can almost imagine something into reality – and believe what I have imagined,” he says.

Yes – but the beauty of that is that he can transport us along with him, right into the lives and characters of other times and places. And something that David says other thespians may contest, but he feels strongly is true, is that audiences don’t go to the theatre to think or to remember word for word what has been told from the stage. “No… they go to have an experience.. it’s about how it makes them feel.”

The other offerings he takes to the stage are Whale Nation and Sacred Elephant. “These two make me realise where we are at as human beings on this earth. We have really screwed up, the animals are fine. I think of people like Anna Breytenbach who can communicate with animals, I think the rest of us move, live, too fast.”

He quotes a line from Sacred Elephant: although it moves at a stately pace, the elephant can sprint faster than any human, 30-40 mile per hour, yet it never travels so fast that it loses track of itself.

“A herd of 500 elephants is a mobile creche and an old people’s home where every elephant knows its fellow member by what it is that we glibly call a name.”

David quietly states that if only humans could live like elephants. Or whales. And he whistles softly, imagining for a moment how wondrous that could be.

He is moved by the stories he tells, how could he not be? And the essence of each remains distilled in him, in some way.
Herman Charles Bosman’s Leopard story is among his favourites and his voice becomes softer talking about the reality that the story is carved from, about the story told to Herman Charles Bosman on the stoep by the old people, or by a farmer direct, who had the experience of the already wounded leopard, seeking solace.

The Karoo holds a great draw for David, and stories have a way of finding him. A recent visit to Graaf-Reinett gave David his next project: a friend who had written a book on Beyers Naude spent eight hours telling him the stories of Naude’s life.
By the time he arrived in Cape Town, he had decided that this was the next project he would breathe to life. But its not the only one. Stories are life, and never was there a better companion for stories than travel.

So David is also taking a tour guiding course and he wants to qualify in all the provinces so that he can combine the scrolling splendour of this beloved country, with the stories that shape its people. Or its visitors.

And David has really lived in this country. Before studying (at 28 at the suggestion of his then-girlfriend’s father) he lived in Springbok, dived for diamonds, he was a prospector in Namaqualand, he climbed the Richtersveld Mountains to take tin samples.

He tells of working in places that were so hot that running out of petrol meant you could die – and that some did. He was a road surveyor and worked as a male orderly in theatre in False Bay Hospital.

He learned how to surf on a girlfriend’s board in Clovelly – and now watches his son teach surfing – while his 15-year-old daughter has inherited his love of language and theatre.

He laughed when asked where – amid all the roles, masks and props of his actor’s life – we find the real David Muller. “I don’t know that I know the answer to that. I can only say I am still learning to do the vital things such as respect myself. My sister just recently gave me this mantra, that I must start loving myself, forgiving myself, I must say thank you and I am sorry, to me, because only then can I do it, to you.”

He spoke candidly about seeing #Just Men at the Baxter and that he took his son, too, to face up to any traces of inherited patriarchal thinking. He shared the insights gleaned from the show and the talk after the show.

“Because I am a man I am guilty: not that I have done these things, but because I have allowed them to happen.” His solution, unsurprisingly, is education: this time closer home. He and he has committed to taking his son with him to do a course with the Mankind Pro-
ject.

He described his stoic family of strong men and women and says that his dad simply never argued with his mom. “And that’s fine.. but I think there’s a masculinity that can support even more, that still respects and still honours and looks across to the feminine,” he said.

He says the Just Men show made him realize that women know feelings and can express their feelings so much better than men. “As men we really struggle with expressing our feelings. We need to realise men and women are speaking different languages. And discovering this is actually part of answering that question, about who I am, I think after this course I may be better versed in how to answer that.”

“As men we really struggle with expressing our feelings. We need to realise men and women are speaking different languages. And discovering this is actually part of answering that question, about who I am, I think after this course I may be better versed in how to answer that.”

David will be taking his modulated tones and wonderful words off to Grahamstown next. But it won’t be long before you see this Muizenberger home, mulling over the next work. And the next. In September he will be on stage at the Masque – watch this space for details.