Hulle sê mos: oppas vir wat jy voor wens. By my was dit altyd om ‘n jaar af te vat!
Dit was die fluister in my kop elke Nuwe Jaar met ‘n blik op die volgende twaalf
maande se skedules.
Vir 2020 was daar 230 teatervertonings ingeskryf: seisoene in Johannesburg, Kaapstad,
Durban, Londen met ‘n paar spatsels in Berlyn en Nederland. Lyk my iemand het my
fluister gehoor. Ek is nou halfpad deur daardie af-jaar en my dagboek is sedert einde
Februarie tot in die toekoms leeg! So oppas: drome kan naar waar word!
'Hoe behandel die inperking jou?' Almal vra dit virtueel. Gewoonlik op die foon,
deur 'n WhatsApp, of vaag en sag van agter 'n masker. Amper sewe maande van nil-per-brein?
Snaaks genoeg, nee. Ek is meer besig as ooit. Tannie Corona se inperking word nou
glad 'n gewoonte. En meer van 'n plesier as wat ek ooit verwag het.
Skielik is daar meer as genoeg tyd om dinge te doen wat vir 20 jaar wag. Ek is nou
my eie verhoogbestuurder-de-lux, besig om op my tyd veertig jaar se teater-rekwisiete,
kostuums, pruike, tekste en fotos te sorteer. So waar pas die geskryf in? Gedurende
die afgelope 6 maande het ek 'n boek klaar, 'n een-man-vertoning reg, twee filmtekste
voltooi, 'n radio drama bewerk, en ploeg nou deur planne vir 2021.
Die grootste ophou is: wie sal na die Covid nagmerrie wil sit en vermaak word deur
ondervindings in 'n pandemie? Dus gaan alles maar terug in die boks onder die bed.
Sal weer later daarna kyk en besluit. Miskien was al die skryf net 'n belangrike
Kan 'n mens dan ooit gewoond raak aan daardie daaglikse gedagte: oppas vir alles
daar buite; anders gaan jy dood. Op my ouderdom is dit nie meer 'n vraag nie, meer
‘n vervaldatum. Dus word inperking agter toe deure liewers 'n keuse as 'n las. Ek
mis die omhelsings, die handskud en die hello-darling wangkusse uit die ou dae. Vandag,
as tannies by Evita se Perron vra vir 'n lekker foto saam, is hulle tevrede met
daardie twee meter distansie tussen ons? Wie kan mooi glimlag agter 'n pap slap lapmasker?
Erfenisdag op 24 September is altyd 'n goeie verskoning om terug te kyk na die dinge
wat nie gewerk het nie. Om behoorlik elke misoes te onthou voordat dit weer gebeur.
Te dikwels was die redes ander se kastige goeie raad wat dankbaar aanvaar is. ‘Nee,
skat, daardie drama het twee pouses nodig.’ Eintlik nee, die enigste rede is om drank
in die voorportaal te verkoop. Ek sal altyd na raad luister, maar dan ‘n tweede opinie
soek. En vir altyd die spook van instink respekteer. Jy sal dit nooit verstaan nie,
want dis maande vooruit, maar jy ignoreer dit op jou eie risiko.
Digitale teater het nou die stil verhoog opsy gedruk. My derde opvoering 'op die
wolk' vind juis op Erfenisdag plaas. Die titel ‘Adapt or Fly’ kom van vêr, maar die
politieke hardkloppings is uit vandag se hygings en kan ook sinspeel op die hantering
van die virus en hoe ons daarby moet aanpas. Hierdie aanpas- of-vlieg kom veertig
jaar na my eerste politieke tonguitsteek, 'Adapt or Dye'. En omdat dit op Erfenisdag
gaan speel, is die inhoud alhoemeer pertinent.
Ek neem almal saam op ons lang stap na vryheid, gelei deur die ruiters van die Boere
Apokalips: Malan, Strydom, Verwoerd, Vorster, PW en FW. En dan die betwyfelbare beskermengele
van ‘n nuwe normaal: Mandela, Mbeki, Zuma en 'n huiwerige CR. Dit gaan ook oor ‘n
erfenis: die politiek van gister, vandag en môre. En alles opgedis met die soet-suur
sous van humor. In ons huidige kiem- nagmerrie is lag die enigste medisyne. Wat voorlê
is nogsteeds iets wat niemand kan voorspel nie. Aanpas is miskien die enigste uitweg,
want vlieg staan stil op lughawens.
Uit my satiriese swerm (klink beter en meer hardlywig in Engels se satirical cluster)
is Mrs Petersen van die Kaapse Vlaktes, Nowell Fine nou by haar 59ste matriek makietie,
en al die bewoners van die Unigebou as deel van die opskopkoor van ikone en aikonas.
Hulle kan natuurlik nooit almal gelyk op my verhoog wees om mekaar in die bek te
ruk nie. Ek bly maar die gom wat al die menslike stukkies bymekaar hou.
Die feit van die live-stream beteken dat 'n wêreld kan saamkyk, en nie net 'n teater
vol plaaslike mense nie. Daar is ook spoegies Afrikaans in die stuk, dus moet die
'toeriste' wat inloer mooi luister en besef hulle sal alles verstaan. Vrot politiek
het nie vertalings nodig nie.
Party mense in die brekende nuus sukkel naderhand om nog iets nuuts te sê, maar met
wat ons land se politiek in hierdie pandemie oplewer is genoeg om voor lekker te
lag met 'n traan. Weereens, soos met apartheid en Vigs, is niks snaaks nie, maar
die belagligheid van korrupte aflewerings waarborg 'n
gesonde kwaai lagbui.
Ons politieke skurke sê mos maklik: ‘Patrioot: onskuldig tot skuldig verklaar’. Ek
is bevrees dat die sin nou so moet lees: ‘Politikus: skuldig tot onskuldig bevind’.
Amper almal in ons huidige politieke spektrum probeer teaterlik die uitslag van
korrupsie onder die grimering van skynheiligheid wegsteek. Daar is jammerlik min
goeie ouens in die politiek oor; net kader opdrifsels en vrot (l)eiers. Maar ons
kan nog lag. Dis ook oormôre se erfenis.
Pieter-Dirk Uys to live-stream Adapt Or Fly on Heritage Day
– Eat.Play.Drink, 15 September 2020
ON Heritage Day, Thursday, September 24, at 6pm, nearly 40 years after PW Botha gave
him the show title Adapt Or Dye, Pieter-Dirk Uys is once again inspired by politicians,
a Corona virus and our heritage in 2020 with Adapt Or Fly. Mrs Evita Bezuidenhout,
“Kidi Amin” (Julius Malema), Pik Botha, Nowell Fine, Mrs Petersen, the old Krokodil,
Madiba and that former dancing Prez come to the rescue. In a time of depression,
recession, fear and social distancing, what is better and more healing than a good
laugh at the expense of those who depress, recess, frighten and annoy us?
A lifetime ago, Uys began his total onslaught against careless, corrupt and unacceptable
politics. Apartheid might officially be dead today, but the careless, corrupt and
unacceptable political crooks and clowns are still dancing centre-stage. It is said
when history (heritage?) repeats itself, it can take tragedy and turn it into farce.
So banish the blues. Come and enjoy the blacks, whites, browns, yellows and “others”
that make up the heritage of this unique country of our dreams. As long as we can
laugh at our fear, we are still in charge of our future.
Tickets for Adapt or Fly cost R70 per person via Quicket. The show will remain online
until September 28 at 7pm with at the same price.
What the Media have had to say:
“Clever impersonations and brilliant repartee after sailing fearlessly close to the
wind. Uys loves his country with a passion and has done more to educate in the complexities
of the country’s politics than any television or newspaper coverage.” – ArtSMart
“The barbs are biting, the puns politically incorrect, the satire scathing and wit
intact. It’s funny stuff.” – Sunday Tribune
“Adapt Or Fly is an enlightening, thought-provoking offering. Touching on everything
from the fathers of apartheid to the success (or is that failure?) of the TRC, to
politicians and their shenanigans, through the absurdities of apartheid race classification
laws and the Juju generation of leaders and more – the show balances all this weightiness
with a highly entertaining performance by Uys and his hilarious alter egos. * *
* * * ” – The Daily News
Pieter-Dirk Uys started his career of one-man shows with Adapt or Dye in 1981.
Uys may be years older than when he opened ‘Adapt or Dye’, but his material is as
fresh today as it was then. The players may have changed, but the game has not.
– City Press
Now thirty-five years later adapting is still a necessity, while flying is a choice.
Uys still has us rolling on the floor after 35 years. There’s enough to keep you
laughing at (his) unique brand of satire, to keep you moved, hooked and, at times,
in awe too.
– The Sunday Independent
He will take you on a familiar long walk to freedom, through the various chapters
of National Party rule with impersonations of DF Malan, JG Strydom, HF Verwoerd,
BJ Vorster, PW Botha and FW de Klerk, and into the familiar terrain of amandla-politics
with tributes to Nelson Mandela, and through Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe into
the reign of Jacob Zuma.
So banish the blues – come and enjoy the blacks, whites, browns, yellows and ‘others’
that make up this unique country of our dreams. As long as we can laugh at our fear,
we are still in charge of our future.
– Monday Missile Dot Coza
Among others in his satirical cluster in this show are former NP Minister of Foreign
Affairs Pik Botha, Cape Flats icon Mrs Petersen, legendary old white liberal Nowell
Fine and our beloved Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
What a wonderful evening I spent at The Market Theatre last night. It is a true jewel
in the crown of Johannesburg. The drinks were cold and the buffet hot, just as it
should be. The place smacks of art and history laced with enchantment and nostalgia
One of South Africa’s most iconic personalities is back on stage with his new production
Adapt Or Fly. Pieter Dirk Uys has to be the ultimate patriot.
One is quickly reminded that not every struggle hero carried a gun or spent time
incarcerated on Robben Island. These artistic heroes braved life and limb reaching
out and telling the stories of a pre-1994 South African government. Without these
artists as South Africans would never have known the truth of the country we lived
in, now part of our collective history.
I am always left gobsmacked at Pieter’s ability to capture the essence of the characters
in government he portrays, both living and dead. His imagined characters always push
the envelope. I am always left thinking; I can’t believe she said that. Mrs Pieterson
as a character was pure delight to meet last night. One can only gasp.
After a career spanning many decades Pieter stays on the cutting edge of South African
Politics. I would even say the bleeding edge if you are a citizen.
From a very chilling opening scene, a conversation between Julius Malema and Adolf
Hitler to the last uplifting commentary at the end, the show is not one you want
to miss. It does not shy away from the burning issues so big no fire pool can quell
the flames. It comes with its warnings. It shows you what an uncertain future in
could be. It gives you hope that it does not have to be. South Africa is still a
wonderful place to be warts and all.
Brave is the man who will risk portraying Madiba himself. I know Madiba would be
laughing. Done with a love that is familiar to us all. Kudos Mr uys.
This is worthy show from a freedom fighter, patriot, and all around warm and wonderful
human being. I would recommend it to both the young born frees, and those born before
1994. It shows the evil absurdity in the ghosts of our past of our past and harsh
reality of our present.
It inspires the future. This is a future we are fighting for, to ensure we all have
one. Take heed.
Tea with a National Treasure: Pieter Dirk Uys in Adapt or Fly
– Caitlin Clerk, Musings and Musicals, 2 October 2014
I had never seen him perform live, but suddenly this unobtrusive, humble and hilarious
icon of South African satire was sitting on the stage in front of me, dangling his
feet between two plush red chairs. Ok, we didn’t actually have tea, I lied. But wouldn’t
that have been a treat? And “tea” and “treasure” are so beautifully alliterated that
I couldn’t help myself. You’ll forgive me, I’m sure. Pieter Dirk Uys introduces himself
to each of us before he takes a deep breath and starts talking.
I stressed the whole afternoon about what questions to ask this man, who’s [sic]
many faces I have grown up with and loved. I wondered how I could possibly word anything
so that it would sound witty enough. In the end, I didn’t need to worry at all because
Pieter (we’re besties now and on first name terms) graciously answered every possible
question I could have had about Adapt or Fly before I had even considered interrupting
him. With such a natural affinity for story telling, he relaxed our little interview
most organically in to a short play with the potential for audience participation.
And there you have it! Why would you want to interrupt him anyway?
Adapt or Fly is about our road to democracy, paralleled and compared to Pieter’s
own 69 years of life. “I have to tell the truth” he says, “we laugh at fear because
our own naivety is so ridiculous.” He describes a “tango with the audience” and how
he considers himself a reactor and not an actor. He has been handed politicised material
on a platter for his entire career, and the advent of democracy didn’t change this.
“Apartheid will never come back…under the same name” he jokes. Or is it a joke? I’m
not so sure.
Thirty three years after Adapt or Die [sic] and their debut at the Market Theatre
in 1981, Pieter Dirk Uys and Tannie Evita return to perform Adapt or Fly. In many
ways, this is a circular experience for us all — both titles are inspired by politicians,
both plays are cutting, both subject matters will leave you laughing but then stop
you short of enjoying the message. So much has changed since 1994, and yet so much
has come back in a nasty undercurrent of secrecy. To me, Adapt or Fly was a warning
from a seasoned political activist. The message was simple but pointed: be careful!
Get Tickets: http://online.computicket.com/web/event/adapt_or_fly/832459035
Pieter-Dirk Uys spoke to journalists at Johannesburg's Market Theatre, where he is
launching a four-week run of "Adapt or Fly", a one-man show in which he sends up
political figures of the past and present.
– Christopher Torchia, Associated Press, 30 September 2014
JOHANNESBURG — The cross-dressing South African satirist says he doesn't tell jokes
and can't remember punchlines.
"Sometimes the truth is funnier," said Pieter-Dirk Uys, who lampooned the leaders
of white racist rule decades ago and now pokes fun at South Africa's politics 20
years after its first all-race elections.
Uys, who is 69 years old but said Tuesday that he feels 30 years younger, was on
the cutting edge of criticism of South Africa's white rulers, who more or less tolerated
his pointed humor during an era of conflict and censorship. And he's still around,
a monument to reinvention who targets a messy democracy.
In a sense, Uys is back where he started.
In 1981, when apartheid South Africa was edgy and fearful, he launched a one-man
show called "Adapt or Dye" at Johannesburg's Market Theatre, a crucible for criticism
of apartheid despite official curbs on expression. He used to bring a cardboard box
with his outfits onstage so he could change under the lights, just in case police
were waiting in the wings.
Now, on the same (recently renovated) stage, he is opening a four-week run of "Adapt
or Fly," in which he sends up political figures of the past and present.
They include P.W. Botha, an apartheid president; Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first
black president; and Julius Malema, a former member of the ruling African National
Congress who is now one of its fiercest critics.
Uys will play signature character Evita Bezuidenhout, a flamboyant white woman from
the Afrikaner minority and stalwart of the apartheid era. Uys has kept the character
current — Evita is now a member of South Africa's ruling African National Congress,
which won re-election this year but has lost some luster because of concerns about
corruption and mismanagement.
Evita even has her own Twitter account.
"It's really important that she is in the armpit of power because she reflects power,"
said Uys, who put on false eyelashes, makeup (including lip gloss, or "portable Botox,"
he said), a wig and a wispy garment in the ruling party colors of green, gold and
It was part of his transformation into the gaudily attired Evita, a kind of behind-the-scenes
performance for journalists who joined him onstage.
"Every time I do her, I must remember she's not a cartoon," Uys said. "In fact, she's
got to be so real that the women recognize the woman and the men forget the man."
He pulled out a puppet of Malema, a self-styled advocate of the poor whose new opposition
party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, captured attention for its trademark red overalls
and berets, and a confrontational manner in the normally staid parliament.
Malema, who has hammered at President Jacob Zuma over alleged corruption, is also
under scrutiny, appearing in court Tuesday for a fraud and racketeering case against
him. The case was postponed until next year and he defiantly said he had nothing
Malema has introduced a "new energy and new alphabet in this country," Uys said.
"Do not ignore the things that he says."
Uys doesn't expect a return of racial segregation — "We've got the T-shirt," he said
— but he worries about segregation in education and other infringements on democracy.
"The cornerstone is to keep a sense of humor," he said.
I have an official typed letter in German framed above my desk. I see it every day.
I read it. It was written on August 19 1935 from the office of the president of the
It was addressed to Helga Bassel, a young pianist living in Berlin. It stated blandly
that because she was a Jew, she would no longer be allowed to perform in public.
She ignored the warning and kept performing. In 1937, she was forced into exile.
She went to Cape Town. Helga Bassel was my mother.
How easily a written paragraph can end a life, destroy a dream or paralyse through
fear. In the 1970s, I also received letters from a nationalist government. The Publications
Control Board banned three of my plays in quick succession, making me the most banned
playwright in South Africa for those few months.
I quote from some of the official correspondence, giving their reasons for preventing
me from performing my work in a public place. My plays were:
» “Likely to pain and offend many persons, but particularly those members of the
population of the Republic of South Africa, whose constant endeavour it is to uphold
a Christian way of life.”
» “Deemed to bring a section of the inhabitants of the Republic into ridicule or
» “Deemed to be harmful to the relations between the black and white inhabitants
of the Republic.”
These letters are not framed above my desk. They are now part of an exhibition celebrating
our history through the prism of humour in our Museum/Nauseum at Evita se Perron
in Darling. It shows that sometimes when history repeats itself, it can take tragedy
and turn it into farce.
In 1981, I’m 36 years old. Prime Minister PW Botha announced a democratic general
election for whites only. Where’s the fun in that? So I planned to stand as an independent
candidate in the Johannesburg constituency of Westdene against the incumbent MP,
the minister of foreign affairs, Pik Botha.
“But what would happen to Pik Botha if you won?” someone asked.
That made up my mind. Go back to the theatre. Do a one-man show. You’ve got enough
material here to fill a lifetime of 60 minutes. But what to call the show? It came
loud and clear from the mouth of the leader, die Baas, der Fuehrer, white South Africa’s
Number One. PW Botha wagged his finger, licked his lips and said: “Adapt or die.”
Some of his frightened white supporters adapted. Many of the angry black suppressed
died. I had just said: “Dankie Oom. Thanks for the title.”
There I was in 1981, after a general election for whites only, with more material
than I could ever use, plus a title from the mouth of PW Botha. Time to open Adapt
or Dye. The only theatre that dared to allow something like that at the time was
The Market. We opened there as a late-night show starting at 11pm, hoping that the
security police were either drunk or in bed with the maids.
Today people ask: “How did you survive all that?” Easy. I’m white. White survived.
Black died. So one had to use one’s whiteness to reflect the madness. There was only
one way to adapt and not die. Put all the props, wigs, shoes, costumes in the cardboard
boxes outside the stage door in the alley. Stay on stage. If you leave to change,
they might be waiting behind the curtains. Don’t have blackouts after a sketch, as
a blackout could give them a chance to invade your space and black you out. Even
having an interval means they can go to their cars and load their guns. At least
you’re safe on stage in the lights and in front of witnesses.
Thirty-three years later, I am back on that same stage at The Market theatre with
a show called Adapt or Fly. Still with cardboard boxes; still part of a chorus line
of recognisable characters, with history repeating itself and turning it into farce.
Familiar finger wags from a PW Botha, winks from a Pik Botha, howzits from a NowellFine
and vivas from Tannie Evita, who all started their stage life with me back in 1981.
And yet in 2014 they reflect the uncomfortable familiarities. No, history doesn’t
repeat itself in South Africa. It just rhymes: “From apartheid to tripartite, from
amandla to Nkandla.”
Adapt or Dye meant life or death. It was a black and white Broederbond Bondel. Adapt
or Fly is a rainbow review with a satirical cluster. It doesn’t suggest: become as
corrupt, or get out. It echoes the freedom to laugh at fear and make it less fearful.
Be in charge. Be a democrat. Be an optimist who expects the worst, hoping that the
worst will never be as bad as you imagined. So let us toast this remarkable country
with a glass that is always half-full and never half-empty. It’s still a careful
tiptoe through a minefield, this 30-year trek from Adapt or Dye to Adapt or Fly!
» Catch Pieter-Dirk Uys in Adapt or Fly at The Market theatre on October 1. Book
Dieselfde klokkies as 30 jaar gelede kan gehoor word en dieselfde stankies as 30
jaar gelede kan geruik word.
So het die komediant Pieter-Dirk Uys gesê oor sy nuwe produksie, Adapt or Fly, wat
by die Pieter Toerien-teater by Monte Casino te sien is.
“Die ANC belowe huise en toelaes vir almal, maar ons moet onthou die NP het dit ook
gedoen,” het hy gesê.
Adapt or Fly is ’n verwysing na 30 jaar gelede se Adapt or Dye, wat geïnspireer is
deur die Groot Krokodil, oudpres. PW Botha. Uys het gesê die geskiedenis word herhaal.
“Die vraag is net of dit tragies of komies gaan wees?”
In Uys se nuwe produksie spot hy met ’n ieder en elk van die NP se leiers, van D.F.
Malan tot FW de Klerk. So ook die ANC se leiers, het hy gesê.
“As Zuma nie daarvan hou dat ons met hom spot nie, kan hy uittree en ons sal dadelik
Die ANC het die morele hoë grond gehad, met die klem op “gehad”, het hy gesê. Uys
is baie opgewonde oor nuwe opposisiepartye. “Dis baie goed dat die hok ’n bietjie
geruk word. As jy in ’n demokrasie woon, moet jy jou huiswerk doen.”
Dit is nie sy werk om mense deur sy komedie in te lig nie. “Ek wil mense vermaak
en ek wil nie aanhoudend my vinger in die politici se oë steek nie. Ek wil hulle
eerder agter die oor kielie.”
Hy het ook geen begeerte om polities korrek te wees nie, het Uys gesê. “Ek verstaan
nie die term nie. Niks van die politiek is dan korrek nie.”
Solank Suid-Afrikaners steeds vryheid van spraak het, is dinge nie so erg nie, het
gesê. “Dis baie broos, maar ons het nog vryheid van spraak. Almal is geregtig op
hul opinie, of jy nou ’n rooi baret of ’n khaki baret dra.”
Check the picture and the characters carefully. You might recognise a few and be
familiar with others. Pieter-Dirk Uys, that master of mockery, has created them all.
With his production Adapt or Fly opening at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre
on Wednesday for three weeks, he spoke to DIANE DE BEER about the characters and
how they take to the stage
From left to right in the back row:
• A female figure in black, reputed to be the Saudi Arabian Princess to become Wife
#5 (or is it 6?) to President Zuma so that his billion-rand homestead/compound/ palace/kraal
Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal can get Saudi oil at a discount.
In Holland she was thrilled to be there and not across the border in France where
the dress would be frowned upon and then she turned to her audience and asked: “Can
you see the bomb?” while pointing to her tummy.
• Mother Theresa sits in penance about the fact that Jesus is determined to wait
till the ANC is out of power before he comes back. She’s there to rattle the cages
of structured religion. But all the angels are on strike until Jesus comes back and
he wants to wait.
• Old kugel Nowell Fine is one of Uys’s favourite friends, and coming on this road
from Mangaung not just for the ride. She was created in 1975 and with those particular
speech patterns, a woman one day turned to Uys and said in exactly that accent: “Who
is she, I’ve never met anyone with that accent!” But she’s also the one that says
the ANC is slow, they take their time and turn into every cul de sac before they
find the freeway.
• Big Issue seller Bennie holds up his edition (a non-profit, pro-social development
magazine) with Trevor Manuel punted for future president.
Apart from the politicians and celebrities, he is the only one of the characters
based on a real person. He is a coloured bergie who Uys used to pull out of the gutter
on his way from home.
Years later, this Big Issue seller greeted him and reminded him about those sad years
“when I was coloured and you were white”.
Now he sells the Big Issue and works with street kids and told Uys to visit the children
as Evita. “Let them laugh, and then we tell them the painful truth.”
• German Chancellor Angela Merkel wondering if the job as a bank manager in Athens
wouldn’t be easier. And there’s the hair, the worst hairstyle in Europe.
“It looks as if she’s used grease to get it right,” says Uys, never at a loss for
words. But with Merkel he also has to plan carefully because she and Bambi share
a blonde wig. He has to stage-manage in fine detail to determine which one follows
which and whether the show starts in pants and finishes in a skirt or the other way
• Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, all singing, all dancing, all wonderful and one
of Uys’s most beloved characters. “He is my most important character.” He was also
the first black person Uys ever did on stage.
“I need his optimism,” he says. But he’s also not scared to say things that he feels
people should hear. “Lots of freedom, little speech,” is one of his favourite sayings.
“He is also the only other man in the country who wears a long purple dress,” quips
Uys. But we need the good and Tutu both acknowledges and represents that.
From left to right in the front row:
• Retired Nationalist Minister Pik Botha brushing up on his Madiba Magic pops into
Adapt or Fly. Of course he has joined the ANC and can’t remember anything about apartheid.
“He’s a bit like a doorman, slightly mouldy,” says Uys.
• Bambi Kellermann is loving every moment of the limelight and that’s a good thing.
Uys also sees her as his future. “I can’t keep doing this format that has been part
of the show for 30 years,” he says. Partly he feels uncomfortable playing black people.
“It’s really tough. I once tried to play Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and I looked more
like Carmen Miranda on crack.” Bambi is his way into the last days of the Weimar
Republic and that’s where his head is going. Watch this space.
• Pieter-Dirk Uys blissfully unaware of the trouble he is in for. And for the man
himself, this is the toughest nut to crack. “I created that character,” he says,
and then allowed him to turn the stage into his play- ground. It was in Australia
when a talk show host asked him what he would have done if he had been born black
in South Africa, and his reply stunned him and his family: “I would be building guns
Keeping out of trouble and skating just inside of what was considered the law was
what created the show’s format he stills plays today: 49 percent anger and 51 entertainment.
“I had to find a way to tell the truth. Good legs also helped!”
• Evita Bezuidenhout holding her adopted little Polokwanean baby is furious to be
in the same set-up with her sister Bambi and the “third-rate comedian” next to her”;
“Haai, shame,” says Uys when asked about her. But he has her on a new trajectory.
She has finally turned and joined the ANC. She’s all about power and with the shift
from one side to another, she knew she had to jump. “She is so rounded,” says Uys.
“She’s all about people’s politics.”
Her next move is to Nkandla because she has decided to cook for the government. “If
you’re too fat, the people will starve,” says the sage.
• PW Botha still in a state of shock realising that while he crossed the Rubicon,
he just ended up in the Wilderness. Uys laughs at the irony that in his old age,
he even looks like his old nemesis. “I can’t leave him off a show. Even if I just
wag a finger and wiggle my tongue!”
In the end it is all about voting: “We have to make sure the future is there. It
could disappear like soft perfume.”
PETER TROMP spoke to Master satirist PIETER DIRK-UYS about his new show ‘Adapt or
Fly’, running at the Baxter Theatre from June 11 to 30, Tannie Evita’s latest doings
(specifically her joining the ANC), who would win in a koeksister bake-off between
himself and the Tannie, and of course the “Spear” debacle.
– Peter Tromp, The Next 48 Hours, 5 June 2012
Tell us about ‘Adapt or Fly’. What can audiences look forward to with the show?
I use my cracked mirror of satire to reflect our cracked democratic society, wracked
with anger, frustration, drama, problems and yet also huge relief that some areas
are working relatively well. A careful balance of 49% anger and 51% entertainment.
Now more than ever we need to laugh at our fear
‘Adapt Or Fly’ comes 30 years after ‘Adapt or Dye’. As a keen eyed satirist, how
do you feel things have changed during that time? Are we really better off today
than in the past?
Everything has changed so much that sometimes it looks the same. Apartheid will never
come back under the same name, but bad politics reinvents itself and can imprison
us again with fear. Bucket toilets, no schoolbooks, government corruption, squeamishness
about cartooned penises all ring bells of recognition. We were there once?
It seems that all across the world governments and ruling elites have found ways
to circumvent democracy. Are you concerned that history’s cyclical nature might mean
a new age of authoritarian leadership is on the horizon?
SA does not follow a blueprint of democracy: it is the blueprint — and so one does
not look at other countries for examples. I have a feeling that as we move towards
a more confident democracy, the world will be sliding back into right wing fascism
and soon will have sanctions against us — because we are not like them!
Do you still believe in the ability of the arts to transcend the stupidity that permeates
our national political and media discourses?
Art has always shown a way round the manure heap of politics. There are so many different
ways to attract attention of the public and the politicians. Obvious ways, subtle
ways, offensive ways — all good, if done with style — and comedy is still the greatest
weapon of mass distraction
The “Spear” debacle is still fresh in people’s memories. Do you feel that the ruling
party has perhaps lost their sense of humour, or was their outrage justified?
Let us not forget the nightmares that resurfaced in the memories of millions of our
people when they remembered how they were treated during apartheid. I think the spear
was just a portal to that darkness. A mountain out of a molehill? The joke is only
the glasses were Zuma’s. The coat was Lenin’s, the apparatus came from bigcocks.com
on the internet.
As someone close to Evita Bezuidenhout, can you divulge any secrets behind her reasoning
for joining the ruling party? Will she address this issue in the show?
Evita wants to be in the kraal smiling out and not outside frowning in. I think the
ANC deserve her, as the National Party deserved her. Let Tannie alert us to where
all the bodies are buried and how much the comrades have moved off to Swiss banks.
She’s got experience of those things.
You have famously made Darling your home town. How are things going at your base
of operations, Evita se Perron? And how do you feel about being the ambassador for
an entire town?
Evita Se Perron is 16 years old. It is a work in progress and I am thrilled that
we are on the international route. (Robben Island in the a.m., Darling in the p.m.)
Each weekend we have shows and the world is flocking to see, laugh, eat and drink.
Tannie is the star of the nonsense, especially with her ‘Evita Bezuidenhout Boulevard’
easily found on the GPS.
Are there any questions from pesky journalists that you have grown tired of answering
over the years? (Fingers crossed I haven’t asked one of them.)
During apartheid they asked, “Are you gay?” My answer still is: yes, I am a homosexual
on Monday and Wednesday. On Tuesday and Thursday I am heterosexual. On Friday I am
bisexual. On Saturday I do it myself and on Sunday I rest.
I have it on pretty good authority that you make a mean koeksister. Who would win
in a koeksister bake-off: you, or Tannie Evita?
I am hopeless in the kitchen. I don’t even know where it is. I must follow the cat.
So Tannie will win.
How do you like to relax and be entertained when you’re not performing for others?
Love my animals. Watch plants grow. Enjoy a Bette Davis movie. Write a book. Read
a book. Repack bookshelves.
What is up next for you?
A new cookbook for Tannie, ‘Evita’s Bossie Sikelela’, out from Umuzi in August. A
new play ‘The Merry Wives Of Zuma’ out in November in Johannesburg and Cape Town
in April 2013.
Pieter-Dirk Uys has a wealth of material that traces his 40 years in the arts and
he isn’t slowing down one bit.
He still has a lot to say and it’s still very political and satirical, engaging with
South Africa’s politics and touching on issues that have been at the heart of his
work, including human rights, freedom of speech and expression and HIV/Aids.
It makes you wonder why he keeps going.
“You are as successful as your last show, so I can’t slow down. Theatre doesn’t wait
for you to retire and I have been unemployed since 1975, so I’ve got to do this.
And it’s been wonderful to experience audiences laughing at their fears,” he says.
He’s included in the National Arts Festival 2012 programme and will form part of
the Season of Solo Plays featuring productions by some of South Africa’s top established
and up-and-coming directors and performers, including Thembi Mtshali-Jones, Omphile
Molusi, Nick Warren and Nicky Rebelo.
Uys will present An Audience with Pieter-Dirk Eish!, a one-off Q&A and celebration
of 35 years of survival in SA theatre, in Grahamstown at the festival running from
June 28 to July 8.
He comes to Joburg with his new show, Adapt Or Fly, opening at the Joburg Theatre
today. This comes 30 years after the premiere of his ground-breaking and controversial
one-man show Adapt Or Dye, (a play on PW Botha’s infamous words: “Adapt or die”)
which traced the realities of apartheid.
He’s just finished a run in Durban and says the spokesperson of the ANCYL gave him
the title of his new production when he said: “If you don’t like the way things are
going under the youth league, you can adapt or fly”, and Uys was only too grateful.
But the underlying agenda this time appeals to the youth (those under 40) to not
take their freedom for granted.
“The main issue today is that we have the most liberal constitution in the world
that we ignore at our peril; that we have the freedoms to speak and to inspire, but
are in danger of losing them; that history is repeating itself by turning tragedy
into farce,” says Uys.
He brings with him a number of characters in what he calls “a long toyi toyi to freedom”
and these include Evita Bezuidenhout, PW Botha, Piet Koornhof, Pik Botha and Nowell
Fine, balanced with the new voices of today – Mrs Pietersen from the Cape Flats;
a former security policeman now in Iraq; Madiba; Mbeki; Motlanthe and, of course,
“On this road to Mangaung, anything is possible,” he quips.
And in that case, he can’t leave Malema behind. Uys is intrigued by his volatile
energy and believes what he says is terribly important.
His work in Gauteng also involves being honoured with a Carnegie fellowship at Wits
for its Drama For Life 2012 programme. John Kani was a fellow in 2010.
The Carnegie Resident Equity Scholars Programme focuses specifically on engaging
scholars to assist Wits in establishing a culture and process of dialogue, managing
the institution’s cultural diversity, and meeting the challenge of cultural fluency
in the institution and the nation.
Selected scholars are sought from academia, government, the private sector, NGOs,
entertainment and the arts to engage with the university community in a focused programme
of lectures and public forums that seed dialogue and engagement on controversial
Uys has been given honorary degrees from institutions like UCT and Rhodes, but this
is the first time he’s been asked to do something with the students and that excites
him very much.
“I’m enjoying the energy of being with young graduates at the start of their professional
lives and sharing with them the experiences from my 40-year survival saga in the
face of all obstacles — meaning: believe in what you want to do, work at it constantly,
be careful of casual advice and never ignore your instinct. (And that a shower after
unprotected sex cures nothing!),” he says.
He will give a lecture on April 23 at the Wits Great Hall at 1pm titled You ANC Nothing
Yet — On the Road to Mangaung. You ANC Nothing Yet was the title of his first one-man
show after democracy.
“I had taken off two years because there was no need to attack and criticise our
new government, for whom I had voted and fought for through the Struggle years. But
eventually politicians found me.
“The show You ANC Nothing Yet was maybe ahead of its time, because in 1996 our honeymoon
was in full bloom. Now, 18 years later, the party is over. I will focus on the use
of humour as a weapon of mass distraction – and the need to find ways to laugh at
our fears, not because they are not there, but because a sense of humour can make
that fear less fearful.
“HIV is a reality. Racism is a reality. Freedoms are still a reality, but they can
so easily be replaced by laws that pretend to protect. They don’t. Without the freedom
to speak, we slide back into the darkness of the past. So my talk will touch on touchy
things – with humour. And without Evita. She’s busy.”
Uys will also work on a new comedy with the Wits students called The Merry Wives
of Zuma, inspired by Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, and local politics,
coming out in Joburg in the second half of the year. This is inspired by a play he
did at the Market Theatre, McBeki.
He takes Adapt or Fly to the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town from June 11 and hopes to
be in Bloemfontein in time for the Mangaung ANC congress.
Adapt Or Fly starts at the Joburg Theatre today and runs until April 29.
Evita Bezuidenhout, South Africa's most famous white lady of politics, has joined
the ANC, with the sole purpose of chairing the proposed media tribunal, satirist
and playwright Pieter Dirk Uys has revealed.
– Edward Tsumele, Sowetan, 3 April 2012
Evita (Uys), dressed glamorously in a yellow green dress with white stripes, announced
her new political allegiance yesterday at a media conference held at Johannesburg
Theatre in Braamfontein.
The satirist, known for witty and yet bold takes on South Africa's political elites
from the apartheid era right through to the current political leadership, said she
wanted President Jacob Zuma to know that she is ready to take on the role of chairperson
of the proposed media tribunal.
"I want him to know that I am ready and available to assume that responsibility.
I can assure him that in me he will have a balanced chairperson of the media tribunal
to take care of issues of media freedom," she said.
In a interesting twist to the proceedings at the media conference, Evita took the
opportunity to introduce a black "child" in the form a wooden statue that has a striking
resemblance to beleaguered ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.
Her "child" was unveiled from a piece of clothing that has the face of former president
"Charlize Theron has just adopted an African American child, and that is a perfect
story of an Afrikaans person adopting a black child. And just like her, I have decided
to also adopt a black 'child'. This 'child' I have adopted from Polokwane, and this
piece of cloth I picked it up in the streets of Polokwane at the 2007 ANC conference.
The first name of this child starts with a J," said Evita amid laughter from members
of the media.
Evita is the famous alter ego of prolific playwright and satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys
whose new show Adapt or Fly will have a season at the Joburg Theatre, opening today.
"Adapt or Fly! Mrs Evita Bezuidenhout, Kidi Amin, Pik Botha, Nowell Fine, Mrs Petersen,
the old Krokodil, Madiba and the dancing DA are coming to the rescue. In a time of
depression, recession, fear and anger. What is better and more healing than a good
laugh at the expense of those who depress, recess, frighten and annoy us?
"Pieter-Dirk Uys celebrates 2012 as a year of radical change in South Africa through
political paralysis. From the R100m ANC centenary celebration in January, right up
that long-winding road to end up again in Mangaung for the ANC December congress,
the ruling party will be too busy fighting each other for personal wealth and political
power to bother themselves about running a country up or down," says the producer
of the show.
Just like almost all his productions so far, a collection of famous politicians including
past National Party leaders (DF Malan, JG Strydom, HF Verwoerd, BJ Vorster, PW Botha
and FW de Klerk), and ANC presidents from Nelson Mandela, via Thabo Mbeki, through
Kgalema Motlanthe to Jacob Zuma are the subjects of his new satirical work. In this
production Julius Malema's nickname is Kidi Amin.
Evita Bezuidenhout looks at home in her green print dress and ANC scarf.
“I must stop sending Julius Malema koeksusters,” the mischievous tannie giggles.
“He really is showing.”
On the eve of Pieter-Dirk Uys launching his latest show, Adapt or Fly, at the Joburg
Theatre, the heavily made-up and extremely charming Bezuidenhout called a press conference
to announce that she has joined the ANC and won’t be attending Uys’s tasteless show
in which she and other prominent political figures undoubtedly can expect to be made
Along with apparently being considered as Zuma’s seventh wife, Bezuidenhout claims
she was given a special position within the ANC: first chairperson of the media tribunal.
“(The ANC run) a government by the people, for the people, who obviously don’t like
the people,” she said brightly.
“Do you have any specific questions which I won’t answer because one never answers
anything specific in the ANC.”
Bezuidenhout, who was involved in the National Party through her late husband, advised
the ANC to return African foreigners to the “homelands” of Ghana and Nigeria, but
blasted Egoli becoming “Etolli”.
She even offered a kind word to DA leader Helen Zille on the scandal about refugees
in the Western Cape.
“She doesn’t mean refugees literally… she means people who have gone on a holiday
and had their car stolen so they can’t go home.”
Following suit from Charlize Theron, Bezuidenhout proudly showed off a bouncing baby
boy she has adopted, swathed in a Thabo Mbeki blanket — Baby Johannes, who comes
“Somebody said the other day he reminds them of someone, I can’t imagine who.”
Adapt or Fly will run from today until April 29 at the Fringe theatre at Joburg Theatre
Complex. Call 0861 670 670 for bookings.
Baie van sy vreesbevange wit ondersteuners het aangepas, maar te veel van sy woedende
swart onderdruktes is dood.
Ek het net gesê: “Dankie vir die titel.”
Adapt or Dye het twee jaar lank, tot einde 1983, deur die land getoer ten spyte van
sensuur, wette, woede, die oom-sindroom en politieke onkorrektheid.
Mense sê nou dit het ons geleer om vir onsself te lag. Ag nee wat! Destyds het die
Voortrekkers aan die lewe gebly met ’n sin vir humor.
Hoe sou hulle kaalvoet oor die Drakensberg gesukkel het sonder ’n glimlag op hul
My eerste eenmanvertoning was suksesvol danksy die beste teksskrywers in die land
— die Nasionale Party-politici in die parlement. Pik Botha was die Hamlet van Westdene.
Piet Koornhof was in volle gang as een van die argitekte van apartheid. Dít is voordat
hy vir die wêreld bewys het dat onafhanklike ontwikkeling nooit kon werk nie toe
hy sy eie Ontugwet in die openbaar verbreek het.
Daar was Andries Treurnicht en destyds se Juju, Eugène Terre’Blanche. Die enigste
verwysing na die gegrom oorkant die bult was ’n pakkie met die letters “CNA” wat
omgedraai is na “ANC”.
Nou, 30 jaar later, is ons in die 17de jaar van ’n reënboognasie. Daar is nou jong
Suid-Afrikaners, gebore nadat Nelson Mandela vrygelaat is, wat verlede jaar gestem
het. Hulle het geen sentiment oor die struggle nie. Hulle kyk vooruit en hoop maar
vir die beste.
Die koue mis van bedreiging is terug. Praatjies van nasionalisering van banke en
myne; grond-gryp sonder vergoeding; die vrese dat ’n toekomstige ANC-regering deur
’n Malema-kliek gelei kan word: Genoeg om enige demokraat hom te laat haas na die
deur van die Australiese hoë kommissaris.
Maar gelukkig het ’n woordvoerder van die ANC-jeugliga met kalmer woorde vorendag
gekom: “F**of! As julle nie hou van wat ons as jeug in die toekoms beplan nie, f**of!”
En toe voeg hy by: “Adapt or fly!”
En ek sê: “Dankie vir die titel.”
Adapt or Fly is 30 jaar ná Adapt or Dye die nuwe Suid-Afrika se toi-toi/vastrap deur
die mynveld van politiek, met humor as leidende donkie.
En weer eens is my materiaal verskaf deur die beste teksskrywers in die land: Die
ANC in Luthuli-huis.
Nie net het ek ’n dansende president wie se umshini wami-toi-toi onder vroue tot
gewigverlies kan lei (JZ, die Jane Fonda van die ANC!) nie, maar ook ’n geskorste
president van die jeugliga wat elke keer as sy naam genoem word krete van genot uit
’n gehoor lok — ook by diegene wat nie wit is nie.
Daar is wel van die ou garde wat nog aanhang met passie, witblits en amnesie. Pik
Botha is al met my sedert die begin van die 1980’s.
Hy was waarlik die St.?Christopher-beeldjie op die dashboard van my satiriese sportkar.
Piet Koornhof is ook terug: “Net omdat ek dood is, beteken nie ek het verander nie!”
Die ANC is 100 jaar oud. Dis altyd lekker om ’n verjaardag te vier. Gewoonlik gee
ons vir Ouma of Oupa ’n bedpan of gehoorapparaat.
In Adapt or Fly gee ek Piet Koornhof aan die ANC as ’n nuwe kader; iemand wat hulle
kan help vir die volgende 100 jaar. Soos Piet swart mense in Suid-Afrika rondbeweeg
het van plakkerskamp na tuisland of tronk, sodat wit mense hulle nie eens kon raaksien
nie, gee hy die ANC nou wenke hoe om op dieselfde manier ontslae te raak van die
miljoene onwettige swartes in Suid-Afrika wat terug na hul tuislande moet gaan —
na Nigerië, Ghana, Somalië, Soedan, die Kongo, Malawi, Mosambiek, Zimbabwe en Zambië!
En dan, soos 30 jaar gelede toe ’n jongerige dame met ’n pienk hoed haarself voorgestel
het as die vrou van die LV van Laagerfontein, mev. Evita Bezuidenhout, kom die bekendste
wit vrou in Suid-Afrika na vore: Die legendariese Gogo van die Nasie, nou geplaas
in 2014 net ná die algemene verkiesing.
Tannie is dan die voorsitter van die mediatribunaal. Sy stel die nuwe president van
Suid-Afrika voor. Kom vind self uit wie dit is; daar kan nie van my verwag word om
als self uit my duim te suig nie.
Die teksskrywers het besluit. Die stemmers sal dit ondersteun. Al wat ons kan doen,
Pieter-Dirk Uys se Adapt or Fly begin Dinsdag in die Fringe in die Joburg-teater.
“The extraordinary thing about Julius Malema is what he says is terribly important”.
Pieter-Dirk Uys talks to Newswatch about dirty politics, Durban audiences — and weapons
of 'mass distraction'.
– Hannah Keal, Newswatch (East Coast Radio), 16 March 2012
"Humour is a great weapon of mass distraction," comments master satirist Pieter-Dirk
Uys as we sit down in his dressing room at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre ahead of
his Thursday night performance of his new one-man show, Adapt or Fly.
It's 30 years since he premièred 'Adapt or Dye', (a play on PW Botha's infamous words:
'Adapt or die') a ground-breaking and controversial one-man show reflecting the realities
of apartheid politics at the time, which also saw SA's "most famous white woman"
Evita Bezuidenhout become flesh.
His latest offering is an at once dark and fall-off-your-chair funny romp through
the past 30 years of SA's political landscape.
Q: How did your new show come about?
A: This one's called Adapt or Fly — also given to me by politicians. Someone in the
ANC Youth League said "if you don't like the ways things are going under the Youth
League, you can adapt or fly!" and I thought 'oh, thank you!'. I think we've got
quite a serious year ahead, on the road to Mangaung, with the ANC not governing us
but fighting each other, so we've got to sort ourselves out ... The things one focused
on during the apartheid years, now suddenly you are thinking 'but wait, why is the
smell the same?' And you realise it's got nothing to do with apartheid; it's politics.
It's careless politics, and it's also corrupt politics and it happens throughout
the world. So that's where the targets emerge.
Q: In terms of using satire as political commentary on stage have things changed
for you since 1994?
A: Totally. The Apartheid government killed people. The new democratic government
lets them die, which makes me even more angry. TB, HIV, poverty, no water, no electricity,
still the bucket system after 18 years of democracy. It doesn't make sense. So there's
enough motivation to get out there and not shout — because it doesn't work to shout
from the stage — [rather] get a balance of 49 percent anger, 51 percent entertainment.
That's the secret.
Q: How have audiences received Adapt or Fly?
A: Durban is always a very interesting audience because I think KwaZulu-Natal has
always been the frontier, the frontier province. And thanks to Mike Sutcliffe, Durban
has very much been a frontier town. He's given me tons of wonderful material ...
Audiences change from day to day. Every night I think 'Oops! Now I am going to really
have the first audience of my life!' because you never know. I am very glad when
people enjoy it, but also when they see the spaces between the words. I don't try
and be too obvious, but when they see things I am glad they saw — between the lines
and the laughs — and that's good.
Q: Tannie Evita and you have been very critical of Julius Malema in the past. What
do you make of the current developments in his political career?
A: Malema is fabulous material. I am delighted because everybody knows who I am talking
about. That's pretty important. I say JuJu in Poff Adder and they know what I am
talking about. It's been a very interesting soap opera of politics ... I think the
extraordinary thing about Julius Malema is what he says is terribly important. Everything
he touches on is a major issue that we all should be concerned about. The way he
did it tripped him up. I think he was a little bit taken by his own small print,
and the media blew him up into this big humpty-dumpty. And he fell off the wall.
I think the ANC has reacted to him because he is definitely a threat to the old regime
in the ANC. 18 years have passed, and there is too much need. Too much poverty, terrible
education — schools that are done in thatched-roof rondavels. There's no excuse for
that. Nobody can say it's the legacy of apartheid. I am sorry, it's 18 years later.
That's a generation. So Malema's been doing a lot of that, and I think the future
of South Africa will be very grateful for his irritation; this rash that he caused.
I [also] don't think we can write him off just because he's been kicked out of the
Q: Do you feel positive about South Africa's future?
A: I know where we come from, and I can assure you it's a far better place that we're
in now. It's a speed wobble on a daily basis, it's dicey and it's not that predictable,
but we've got the freedom to have opinions. We've got the freedom of speech, the
freedom of expression, we can move around at will — we can live. That's where we've
got to stay. We've got to be free.
Adapt or Fly runs until Sunday March 18 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in Durban.
Book via computicket. Pieter-Dirk Uys will be back in KZN in June for shows in Pietermaritzburg.
South Africa 2012, satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys reworks Adapt or Dye as Adapt or Fly
– Wanda Hennig, South Africa Travel Examiner, 6 March 2012
“When history repeats itself, it takes tragedy and turns it into farce,” observes
master South African — and internationally acclaimed — satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys currently
doing a “world tour of South Africa” with his latest show, Adapt or Fly, which opens
at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on the University of KwaZulu-Natal campus this
week. (Show runs March 6 to 18.)
Observing the current political landscape — corruption is rife and press freedom
is under threat in South Africa — Uys notes that, “In theatre, jeopardizing our freedom
of speech is as dangerous as the apartheid threat was in those days. (Controversial
former ANC youth leader) Malema is a wake-up call to those of us who care about the
“At the height of the Malema-speak of nationalization of mines and land-grabs of
farms, which frightened many people into near-panic, a spokesperson for the ANC Youth
League was heard to suggest that if whites did not like (what was going on), the
youth would take over South Africa and then they (whites) could go somewhere else,
hence (the title) Adapt or Fly!”
Pieter-Dirk Uys, who suffered no fools and knocked every holy cow that mooed or bleated
during the apartheid era, celebrates 2012 as a year of radical change in South Africa
— through political paralysis.
“From the multi-million rand ANC centenary celebration in January, right up that
long winding road that will end up again in Mangaung for the ANC December Congress,
the ruling party will be too busy fighting each other for personal wealth and political
power to bother themselves about running a country up or down,” he commented in an
interview with Durban publicist Illa Thompson.
Uys, same as during his apartheid regime-knocking Adapt or Dye days, holds onto his
philosophy around the importance of being able to laugh at your fear.
“The best part of it all is our ability to laugh; we have to present our reality
with humor,” he told Thompson.
Laughter at fear has always been Uys’s trademark, from the darkness of his first
one-man show in 1982 (Adapt or Dye), to the kaleidoscope of rainbow colors in his
new 2012 show Adapt or Fly, which features Mrs. Evita Bezuidenhout, Kidi Amin, Pik
Botha, Nowell Fine, Mrs. Petersen, the old Krokodil, Madiba and the dancing DA —
all coming to the rescue.
In a time of depression, recession, fear and anger, what is better and more healing
than a good laugh at the expense of those who depress, recess, frighten and annoy
Thirty years ago Uys started his total onslaught against careless, corrupt and unacceptable
politics. Apartheid might officially be dead but, he points out, careless, corrupt
and unacceptable political crooks and clowns are still dancing centre-stage.
Thirty years later he revisits his watershed Adapt or Dye by presenting a new show,
which is a personal political comedy-trek along a familiar tiptoe to freedom, through
the minefields of racism and sexism that have always made up the tarmac of our political
freeway, says Thompson.
“The characters have aged — we are all 30 years older — and many of the characters
I play are now representing my own age,” says Uys.
“It is also about the wisdom of experience and celebrating our optimism in this 30
year trek, and our need to remember where we come from. Apartheid will never come
back with the same name, but we need to keep our eye on the ball because it will
re-invent itself if we are not careful – like HIV,” he cautions.
“We need to hold onto the light and remember that there are far more good people
than ‘not good’ people. I regularly note that we are surrounded by compassion and
good will. We spend too much time focusing on third rate people with fourth rate
ideas. We need to move away from Chernobyl politics before we get radiated.”
Adapt or Fly is inspired by politics, but also by South Africa’s constantly evolving
society. “I love to observe change. Now when I say something funny on stage, the
whites in the audience look at the black people before laughing. Laughter in itself
has become a democratic process. It is no longer necessary to speak on behalf of
anybody — we all have a voice. For now ...”
Clearly Uys is excited by the changing landscape, and by engaging with new audiences.
“It is amazing how few young people remember we were in a civil war. Of course it
is not right to dwell on it, but feedback from young people is immensely valuable.
They say that their parents didn’t talk about this. The pain is still there and the
damage is lasting triggered by army memories and whites-only signs.
“The pain doesn’t just go away.
“It is also interesting when older people see the show, because we were all young
people together. It asks questions about the nostalgia of history — we mostly remember
where we were when JFK was killed, but what are our memories of when 30 black people
were killed in the townships? All the anger can be fixed. If we can fix the terrible
horror of then, we can fix the irritation of bad politics of today.
“Extraordinary people need to be remembered, so this show is about people not just
politicians. (We live in) a very exciting minefield to do the tango in.”
The show runs at the Sneddon Theatre in Durban (March 6-18). Tickets through Computicket.
Mrs Evita Bezuidenhout, the alter ego of master satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys, has over
the years been welcomed into the homes of South Africans as the person who makes
us laugh at the things we fear the most.
She was there sticking it to the National Party; she took on the rights of SA and
spoke an uncomfortable truth to the ANC.
But what many people do not know is that it was 31 years ago, in a small Durban theatre,
that Evita made her first public appearance.
Tannie Evita, as she would later be affectionately called, was not your typical middle
aged Afrikaner woman, the audience back then would discover — she had strong political
views that went against the apartheid government and she didn’t care if she ruffled
a few feathers to get her point across.
Next week, Evita Bezuidenhout returns to Durban as part of Uys’s new show, Adapt
or Fly, at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, where she is expected to pull no punches
on the current political climate, Julius Malema and SA’s favourite bugbear: corruption.
Uys’s one man show starting on March 6 will see him reincarnate himself into no fewer
than 17 characters, from National Party icons such as PW Botha and HF Verwoerd to
President Jacob Zuma and Malema, while navigating SA’s slippery political highway.
Adapt or Fly is a sequel of Uys’s Adapt or Dye play performed in 1981. Its title
came from a phrase Botha used in 1980s, when he told white South Africans to adapt
“Back then I was reflecting the politics of SA, Piet Koornhof, Botha, the state of
emergency, you know the usual cocktail of horror that we grew up in,” Uys said.
The first show of Adapt or Dye was performed in Durban in a theatre run by Saira
“The aim was to be provocative,” Uys said. “It was important back then to make statements
about the state of the nation because, remember, in those days it was politically
correct to be racist. It was pretty dangerous and grim, yet the humour made a big
difference, and that is when I discovered the need for humour for some really serious
Uys said that the newspapers were supportive of his show and splashed Evita on the
“And then I started to get into trouble. The censor board came in and started messing
around, but that became my PR department. The censor board gave me publicity money
could never buy,” he said. Much of the material derived for his early plays came
from the National Party and Botha.
“They pissed me off so much that I had two options. Did I want to take a gun and
shoot PW Botha, or make people laugh at him? Laughter was much more powerful,” he
The new play includes characters such as Nowell Fine, Zuma and his machinegun, Madiba
and the dancing DA.
The difference with this show is that many characters form part of the new regime.
“It is weird how politics repeats itself and how the horror of yesterday becomes
the confusion of today, and there are sort of echoes of things that were happening
then that are happening now. Corruption is corruption — the only difference is the
apartheid government called it policy,” he said.
Uys said this year’s show would entertain both the young generation who may have
not suffered the brutality of apartheid — but will laugh at the current regime —
and the older generation who will remember what it was like then.
“My generation will obviously see an enormous amount of detail in the some of the
material, but the younger generation I would like to encourage to come watch because
it is the story of where we come from, so that the young South Africans ensure that
this must never happen again and that apartheid must never come back under a different
Despite the serious nature of the material, Uys said the point was for people to
“The play is not scary, the real world is scary. The moment you come into the theatre
you are in Disneyland and I will make you laugh,” he said.
In a time of depression, recession, fear and anger, what is better and more healing
than a good laugh at the expense of those who depress, frighten and annoy us?
Celebrating 2012 as a year of “radical change” in SA through political paralysis,
Tonight caught up with some of the characters from Uys’s new show to get their thoughts
on the state of the nation, its politics and politicians, and the socio-economic
Here’s what they had to say:
Advice to Juju from Uncle Adolf: I was helped out of political obscurity by the financial
crash of 1929. Your crash will come. Promise the poor anything. They are the majority.
Evita Bezuidenhout on the Budget: Yes, Minister Gordhan sounds like Oprah. Government’s
first and main commitments are education, housing, health and welfare. Then, once
everyone is alive and well, transport and the environment. Then, when everyone has
travelled and seen the beauty of our country, security and tourism, to bring them
in with their investments and let them out with their lives. No one celebrates a
100th birthday on state funds!
Former apartheid president PW Botha: I always said it and I’ll say it again: “Adapt
or die!” Now all you hear in the queue at the Australian high commission is: “Adapt
or fly!” I won’t say it again, but let me state here most categorically: “I told
FW de Klerk: Blame me! Someone had to open that door and it could not be a member
of the ANC because they were all inside. So viva, Pretoriastroika!
Mrs Pietersen on the Cape Flats: How can they call the DA a whites-only party? Look
at Zille, De Lille en hulle! Helen’s botox is making her look coloured!
Julius Malema: It’s not just my woodwork; I blame Bantu Education for everything.
How must I know the word “suspension” doesn’t mean “promotion”?
Jacob Zuma: I’m on my way to New York with the first ladies. Where is the empty Jumbo
Jet? My ZuMamas need their shopping trolley!
Nowell Fine (old white liberal kugel now in her seventies): I am not having a nervous
breakdown because I trust the ANC, I swear to God. They will investigate every cul
de sac before they find the freeway.
A security policeman, now retired: “Roses are red, violets are blue, apartheid is
dead, and so are you!” Ja, I must laugh.
There is ou Jacob Zuma still with that cloud of corruption hanging over his head.
And me? Golden handshakes, amnesty and a nice security job in Iraq. Life can be beautiful.
Former apartheid prime minister BJ Vorster: Ons sal lewe. Hulle kan sterwe.
The architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd: Ah, Mr Tsafendas, what can I do for
Madiba: Graça, please switch TV channels to The Bold and the Beautiful. I can’t take
the breaking news any more.
Some interesting facts before you see the show:
• ”Adapt or die” was said by then prime minister PW Botha when he announced his proposed
revisions of apartheid policies as a prelude to the 1981 general election, which
was still for whites only. Uys started his onslaught against the racist regime at
the Market Theatre, then toured the country and went overseas with his show.
• Adapt or Dye was the first local video — a recording of a Market Theatre performance
in 1982 — to be introduced through DVD stores and those few outlets that had the
courage to make it available. That was its essence: humour.
• Thirty years ago Uys started his total onslaught against careless, corrupt and
unacceptable politics. He feels apartheid may officially be dead, but the careless,
corrupt political crooks and clowns are still “dancing centre stage”.
• He says his new show will be “a personal political comedy-trek” along a familiar
long |tip-toe to freedom, through the minefields of racism and sexism that have always
made up the tarmac of our political freeway.
• Laughter at fear has always been an Uys trademark, from the darkness of his first
one-man show in 1982 (Adapt or Dye), to the kaleidoscope of colours in his 2012 show
(Adapt or Fly).