REVIEWS OF 50 SHADES OF BAMBI IN JOHANNESBURG — FEBRUARY/MARCH 2014
Fifty Shades of Bambi with Pieter Dirk Uys
– Jennifer de Klerk, Saturday Star, 8 March 2014
It’s hard to believe that a man of 67 in a long blonde wig can project such a compelling
and believable female personality on stage.
But this is Pieter Dirk Uys and that’s exactly what he does.
Of course, he’s had plenty of time to shape Bambi Kellermann — she even has her own
biography on sale in the foyer of the theatre.
For those who don’t know, Bambi, born Baby Poggenpoel in Bethlehem in the Free State,
is the rebellious younger sister of the undisputed First Lady of South African theatre,
Evita Bezuidenhout, doyenne of satire, wit and pithy political comments.
Although he couldn’t resist bouncing off the news headlines — the budget is fair
play after all — Uys’s focus here is on sex, drugs and (well, I had to finish the
quote) rock ‘n roll.
Bambi does a lot of her own singing — adequate, but not Uys’s top suit — but he is
accompanied by Godfrey Johnson, who more than fills the gap with his expressive voice
and piano pyrotechnics.
It’s a war-weary Bambi this time around, old, disillusioned, tired, knocking back
the brandy, but still capable of rousing a feisty spark or two. Now that her stripping
and sex-worker days are long gone, she spends her time with her cats and her good
works, running play groups and visiting orphanages.
And she has a message — a serious message for parents and children.
Relating her experiences growing up as a barefoot young Afrikaner girl in Calvinistic
Bethlehem in the 1950s, where the only sex education was “sies”, her message is simple
Parents, talk to your children about sex, tell them what lies ahead before the disillusionment
sets in. Talk to them before the drug lords do.
Egged on by her role models on the silver screen, Bambi had her first experience
at her first dance with the hero of the rugby team and finished the job in the backseat
of a car in Vienna.
With a throaty Austrian accent she tells about her disastrous marriage to a former
Nazi. When she finally got rid of him, she obtained her sex degree cum laude.
Regrets? Perhaps a few, but when she made mistakes, she fixed them. May we all do
There is some frank talk, some poignant moments, some pointed lyrics and, yes, some
satire. Even Number One gets in the picture. “Make up your mind,” she tells him with
Godfrey’s full-throated assistance.
The corollary is that we must make up our minds too — it’s neither comfortable nor
productive to sit on the fence and there’s an election coming. Obviously the Poggenpoel
sisters can’t shake loose from politics even if they will never be seen on the same
stage at the same time.
Spending time with Bambi is definitely time well spent. She’ll supply the condoms,
but don’t forget the brandy.
Fifty Shades of Bambi with Pieter Dirk Uys is at the Auto & General Theatre on the
Square until March 16.
NOT so much a cabaret as a boere-burlesque, Pieter-Dirk Uys’s show 50 Shades of Bambi
revels in being as salaciously sexual as its literary counterpart (if 50 Shades of
Grey can be described as literature). But this is no cheap, pseudo-erotic sleazefest:
it is a bittersweet fictional musical memoir of one of Uys’s alter egos, former stripper
Bambi Kellermann, which also pokes fun at verkrampte attitudes to sex and sexuality.
It’s no accident that the show opens with pianist Godfrey Johnson singing These Foolish
Things, because this show has its tongue — actually, make that a pink Roger Rabbit
sex toy — firmly in its cheek.
On stage is a washing line sporting various kinky fetish goodies and sex aids. We
realise that this will be no genteel Sunday picnic for mother grundies, but entertainment
with a risqué edge.
For those who don’t know, Bambi is the younger sister of another Uys creation, Evita
Bezuidenhout, often referred to as "the most famous white woman in SA". But unlike
the prim and proper Tannie Evita, the lesser-known Bambi is a bad, bad girl.
Born Baby Poggenpoel into a conservative Free State family, the sheltered teenager
ran away to Germany because she "didn’t want to die a virgin in Bethlehem", married
a Nazi and became a sex worker on Hamburg’s Reeperbahn.
In this Fleur du Cap-winning show she is now in her 70s and looks back on her wicked
but wonderfully eventful life. The Marlene Dietrich of the platteland, she channels
a torch singer of the decadent Weimar era in a blonde wig and black leatherette pants
suit, clutching a whisky glass and lit by sultry red lights.
Alternating between nudge-nudge-wink-wink ribald and wistfully reflective, she summons
the audience into her confidence with personal recollections sprinkled with musical
interludes. In a delightfully bizarre touch, atop the piano is a thermos flask supposedly
containing the ashes of her late husband.
It’s an intimate show about personal and sexual liberation, about banishing that
old Afrikaner guilt that caused so many people (including, no doubt, the youthful
Uys himself) to view sex as shameful and dirty — and possibly get themselves into
trouble as a result. Cocking a snook at such poppycock, Bambi/Uys cheekily gives
traditional volksliedjies such as Hier’s Ek Weer and Hoe Ry die Boere Sit-Sit-So
a subversive twist, in between Kurt Weill standards.
So immersed does he become in his character that the audience occasionally forgets
that it’s Uys in costume — and who knew he had such a good singing voice?
Unlike Evita, Bambi steers mostly clear of politics, making this a refreshingly personal
show that fearlessly lifts the covers on sexually suppressed attitudes. Several shades
away from ordinary, the bold and bodacious Bambi is anything but grey — but how about
a striptease in a champagne glass, a la Dita von Teese? Get ’em off, Bambi!
• 50 Shades of Bambi is on at the Auto and General Theatre on the Square in Sandton
until March 16.
Sy kom stil-stil langs die kant van die gehoor ingesluip, ’n groot sak in die hand,
’n swart rok en ’n blink, wit-grys pruik.
Dit is Pieter-Dirk Uys in die gedaante van Bambi Kellermann, die jonger suster en
antitese van Evita Bezuidenhout, formidabele “tuisland”-ambassadeur.
Klaarblyklik het Kellermann geen “konserwatiewe” streep in haar sensuele liggaam
nie. Sy is onder meer ’n wêreldwyse sekswerker wat vir haar in die kabaretstad Berlyn
nesgeskop het. Vandaar dat agter haar — en die voortreflike Godfrey Johnson op die
vleuelklavier met sy intieme kabaretslimmighede — ’n “wasgoeddraad” behang is met
Met ’n gesplete tong, soos dié van haar ouer suster, word fassinerende anekdotes
kwytgeraak oor haar verlede, met lang wimpers wat deur al die Uys-dekades merkwaardig
50 Shades is skreeusnaaks – gaan luister gerus hoe die arme Jacob dit moet ontgeld:
die Zuma-streke is ook ’n soort aanknopingspunt vir Kellermann se ontsteltenis oor
MIV/vigs, en ook oor vroue- en kindermishandeling.
As uitmuntende kabaret is die musieknommers ter illustrasie van Kellermann se gevatte
kletsery, sinryke transkripsies: van Duitse kabaret-gunstelinge tot die FAK-sangbundel.
Om Kellermann-teks uit te lap is om lesers te ontneem van die verrassende waarnemings
oor die doen en late van die mensdom, gewis van politici (maar in mindere mate as
ousus Evita) en die sensuele binnekamers van wie ook.
Dit gaan gepaard met ’n goeie “kabaretstem”, die immer knap tydsberekening, en Johnson
wat 50 Shades tot iets heel besonders verhef.
It’s the day-to-day political onslaught that the artist hopes to counteract. And
it’s even more heavy-handed than usual because of the looming election.
Take it away Bambi, he seems to say, and she does as she launches into her own politics
— sex. Let’s talk, she says as she flaunts her promiscuous lifestyle yet wanders
through the innocence of youth which is often extremely dangerous because of the
silence that surrounds their lives.
“Speak to the children,” she warns. They need to know and if you don’t someone else
Then Bambi gets down low and dirty, speaks her mind to show how it’s done and says
with pride that she’s experienced everything — twice. But Bambi is no ordinary tannie.
And she’s got the accent to prove it as she launches into song.
“I know I can’t sing,” she says but her pianist, Godfrey Johnson persuaded her that
it is the best way to tell stories. In typical cabaret style they draw on Kurt Weill
and Gershwin as well as Bambi’s roots with Al Ry die Boere Sit Sit So which she turns
hysterically into her own rhymes of reason — delightfully so. These old Afrikaans
folk songs are ripe for the picking and Uys willingly complies.
It is the artist at work that draws you in. And even as she waffles too long every
once in a while, she constantly catches you off guard with her sharp wit which turns
a mild-mannered phrase into something completely different.
Thinking on her feet whether they’re clumsy crocs or sassy stilettos, is Bambi and
her creator’s motto. To speak their minds, whatever subject they’re tackling, that’s
the credo. They don’t really care whether it’s drugs, sex and rock ’n roll or what
life holds. “Is that all it is?”
There’s silly and there’s serious and Bambi does both as she talks about condoms
and vaginas, female contraception and the apartheid between children and parents.
“It’s back,” says Bambi sadly.
But she’s trying to change that with free speech. We still have that and she won’t
spend the night in jail, she concedes. And that is the huge difference. but she has
a wagging finger warning: “Don’t take it for granted!”
But if you’re pulling out your hair because the politics are so overwhelming, the
silly stuff dominates as Bambi tells of her life and her loves and even her long
deceased husband who still accompanies her as an accessory even if she sometimes
thinks of leaving him behind.
What you’re seeing is not only Fifty Shades of Bambi but rather Fifty Shades of PDU,
an artist who knows how to speak to the hearts of his audience. And this time he
does it in both stilettos and song.
This Bambi is not a sweet dear. She has lived a sordid life and now, having moved
into her ‘70s, returns to her homeland to reveal all.
Satirist Pieter-Dirk’s Uys’ alter ego, Bambi Kellermann, the sister of Evita Bezuidenhout,
is back in the full glare of the spotlight, blasting off about the country, sexual
matters of a very sensitive nature, drugs, rock ‘n roll and anything else that catches
Dressed to the hilt, with a sharp blonde wig and in a full-length black costume,
Bambi Kellermann provides audiences with a cheeky look at her naughty past, her troubled
life in the small town of Bethlehem in the Free State and her stripping success in
the fleshpots of Germany, where she spent most of her life.
Next to her is an urn with the remains of her Nazi-husband, giving us some understanding
of her warped sense of humour.
And it’s this wicked sense of humour, with some explicit sex education thrown in
for free, as Bambi holds court for an hour-and-a half, dispensing gems of wisdom
and her own special take on South Africa. She also makes no bones about hating her
famous sister, Evita and they’ll never be seen at the same place at once.
She sings popular songs, which are given some ingenious lyrical twists, to the accompaniment
of Godfrey Johnson’s elegant piano (boy, can he sing) and conjures up an evening
that is strictly not for prudes.
It’s different, occasionally tedious, but a “story” that certainly makes one think
— especially her insistence that we all make a difference at the elections in May.
SANDTON — Pieter-Dirk Uys who plays Bambi Kellermann in 50 Shades of Bambi had audiences
wrapped up in laughter and falling off their seats at the Auto and General Theatre
on the Square.
Bambi introduced herself on stage as a stripper, sex worker and grande horizontal
who graduated from the University of Sex Cum Laude.
She was joined on stage by musical director, Godfrey Johnson, who enthralled audiences
with his singing and piano skills while Bambi took a raunchy ride to the other side
of love-making, coming of age and the pleasures of happiness.
Bambi also raised her concerns about the lack of communication between parents and
their children, and labelled it ‘the new apartheid’. Bambi told audiences how she
was never told about sex as a youngster and how this culture had to stop with the
new generation. “Parents must talk to their children about sex; not this birds and
the bees business,” she added.
She went on to interrogate current affairs and made fun of South African politicians
as well as the Afrikaner culture.
“We just wanted to have a good laugh and we knew she would do that for us,” said
Vannessa Connellan, an audience member.
The musical is recommended for anyone who believes in freedom of expression and the
right to choose what is best for them.