It’s been almost three years since we last spoke to Pieter Dirk Uys (henceforth referred to as PDU), so it was about time to get the guy back in the paper for a bit of a chinwag. It helps that the celebrated performer, satirist and author turns 70 this here, and that he has a new show on the boards at Theatre On The Bay, ‘An Audience with Pieter-Dirk EISH!’, on until March 14.
The South African landscape of course is quite a bit different to how it was in 2012, so this is what PDU had to tell PETER TROMP.
How have you been?
Busy as always, enjoying the passing parade of icons and aikonas, red berets and giggling Zumas.
Tell us about ‘An Audience With Pieter-Dirk EISH’. What can audiences look forward to with the show?
The show is a tribute to audiences who make it possible to get onto a stage and entertain them. The focus is on LIVE – and so it reflects the emotion, the mood, the politics, the hopes and the hiccups of the moment. The show is also a unique structure: there are 20 boxes on stage each numbered, each with a sketch, a character and a story – and the audience chooses what number they want. So I am at the mercy of a democratic process, which means that the show is different every night as we cannot cover more than 7 out of 20 boxes per performance. The audience can look forward to a live performance of sketches old, new, borrowed and blue – and laugh at the very things they didn’t even want to think about.
Congratulations on turning 70 this year. How do you feel about this milestone?
It is just that: a milestone, not a millstone. I really couldn’t give a damn, but 70 is a good hook to hang product on, so this year will see one man shows, a new play, a musical, an anthology of dramas and an 80th birthday for Evita Bezuidenhout.
Somewhere in the press release it is mentioned that the show is a “celebration of South African humour”. Do you personally believe in such a thing as a national sense of humour and if so, what do you think ours reveals about ourselves?
There has always been a South African sense of humour. And let us thank the lucky stars for it. To have survived all those years of bad politics and still be embraced by the majority of our people who have no reasons to be nice, shows their sense of humour, dignity and compassion. There’s nothing as delightful as a poep-grap in Afrikaans. There is also nothing as refreshing as a good laugh at the expense of arrogant, lazy, corrupt politicians – so my show is one big laugh after the next.
Which of the characters you have created over the years would you say you relate to the most?
Like all loving parents I relate to each one with respect and commitment. They have to be real otherwise why would an audience bother to leave ‘Game of Thrones’ for me? Evita is of course my head girl and PW the retired chief whip – but Mrs Petersen from Manenburg is a favourite, Bambi Kellermann waves her condoms and I have a cluster of new characters in ‘EISH’ that I think will be embraced and enjoyed.
Random question: what is your favourite caffeinated beverage?
Glad you spell that word with a C and not a K! I haven’t had chocolate for nine years as I am a chocoholic. I stopped coffee because of reflux and what can I say? Enjoy it while you can!
What’s special about performing at Theatre On The Bay?
I feel safe and loved by my theatre family there, because I know so many of the people who have grown up in theatre with me. Pieter Toerien like me also comes from Pinelands. And the drive over the Nek down into Camps Bay at sunset every night is such a gift.
Your latest show comes at a particularly turbulent time in SA. What advice do you have for folks who are trying to remain positive during these trying times?
In Afrikaans I would say, “Moenie panic nie; alles sal regkom.” Democracy will always have speed wobbles, but at least we still have our freedom of expression. Come to the show and celebrate that. It’s a bit like the old radio show Pick a Box – but as the show reflects much of today, call it Kies ‘n Doos.
Another random question: which book(s)/movie(s) can you read/watch over and over again?
Give me a Bette Davis any day. I love great, creaky, over-technicoloured musicals. (I watch) ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ at least once a month. And my beautiful Sophia Loren. Books: autobiographies. Collected letters. All lies, but usually so compelling. And I read eight magazines per week and six newspapers per day. That’s homework.
Yet another random question: Do you sing in the shower and if so, what’s your go-to tune?
No singing in the shower. I sing softly in my bed when I wake up at 3am and because there is load-shedding I can’t watch an episode of ‘Maud’ or ‘Faulty Towers’. So I sing there. Very softly so as not to wake the cats.
Finally, what else do you having going on at the moment, and what can we expect from you next?
A show called ‘Nkandlakosweti with Evita’ and her secretary from 12 years ago, Bokkie Bam. Yes, Lizz Meiring is back with me. That’s in September. Meanwhile, check out www.evita.co.za for news and which shows are on at Evita se Perron in Darling.
* Performances will take place from Mondays to Saturdays, at 8pm; and Saturdays, March 7 and 14, at 5.30pm and 8pm.
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