At age 73, PIETER-DIRK UYS is still every inch as fresh and as sharp. He spoke to Rafiek Mammon about his brand new production ‘#HeTwo: Evita Exposed!’, showing at Theatre on the Bay from August 28 to September 14.
Tell us all about the content of ‘#HeTwo: Evita Exposed!’ – without any spoilers, of course.
Influenced by the hashtag MeToo campaign, it also demanded from me the answer to the description of Evita: Just because she doesn’t exist doesn’t mean she’s not real. And so I have found enough visual footage to fill a third of the show on screen with Evita meeting some of the most significant persons in our history: Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Pik Botha, Piet Koornhof, Cyril Ramaphosa; as well as some of her speeches in the US, UK, Berlin and Pretoria. So real, she definitely is. And as we are now in a new minefield of hashtags and hate speech, Mrs Bezuidenhout herself confronts me while I am on stage impersonating her. The reason? It is politically incorrect for a man to make fun of a woman. So, 90 minutes of Evita and myself together? There can only be one winner!
Why should people see it?
It’s local entertainment. It celebrates the last remarkable 25 years of our democracy in spite of the speed wobbles of state capture and rotten service delivery. It also shares this strange reality of a fictitious character in a racist all-white laager becoming the most famous white woman in the old South Africa and then adapting to the new democracy without blushing. As she often says: hypocrisy is the Vaseline of political intercourse. Audiences have been relieved to allow humour to become their weapon of mass distraction. Few expect to laugh at things they don’t want to think about. And it’s that sense of humour that burst upon us in 1994 when a former liberation movement became our first democratically elected government without anger or revenge. It proves again that once a democratic government loses its sense of humour, it becomes a gang. Hello 2019.
What is the state of the nation at present, according to Pieter-Dirk Uys?
The state of the nation is a serious case of paralysis. Yes, we are in trouble, but no democracy is perfect. At least we have our freedoms of speech and choice, which means that the people can still lead and force the government to follow. And laughter in a time of crisis doesn’t mean the pain is a joke; it shows that we can face up to our fears with humour and make those fears less fearful. I do not try and offer solutions, but unashamedly want my audience to leave the theatre with a renewed love for where we are and who we are. Then the problems will not depress us, but maybe inspire us to overcome them.
What about the state of “satirical South Africa”? Are comedians and satirists doing their jobs according to an icon such as yourself?
The word ‘satire’ had punch in the 1960s when the world was relatively normal. Then criticism had to stand out above mere jokes. The political clowns had to attract attention with purple hair and a green nose. Now the world is insane and we have to present our criticism as real and recognisable. That’s why my Evita must be real enough for the women to see the woman, and the men to forget the man. I wish the new generation of our comedians and satirists all the best. I hope I have made it hard for them to compete, because the last thing we need are more copycat jokers. We need original madmen and women who can change dull couch potatoes into active citizens – with humour.
Why does this show sound so final? We hope it is not a finale. A farewell bid?
Each performance is the first and the last – because every night has a new audience, which means everything must be fresh and topical. I’m 73 and so far so good, give or take a few aches and pains. As long as the public wants to share a few hours with me, I will be there. If the theatre is empty I can take a hint and go home and play with the cat.
Any famous last words you would like to add?
Live theatre is the best therapy in times of stress and fear. Netflix is often an easier choice on a cold and wet night than going out into the dark, but tinned TV entertainment can be repeated at any time. A live performance is a one-off experience that can be life changing and stay with you forever. A smile is more precious than a frown.
* ‘#HeTwo: Evita Exposed!’ is at Theatre on the Bay in Camps Bay from August 28 to September 14.
Tickets cost from R150 through Computicket and the theatre box office on 021 4383301.