Pieter-Dirk Uys documents the black and white years, using humour and irony in a time of upheaval

While some of us spent the pandemic lockdowns baking banana bread, discovering the differences between online video platforms and experimenting with home workouts, Pieter-Dirk Uys took the time to sort through the records of a 40-plus-year career in theatre. By day, by night, and often by candlelight (thanks to Eskom), Uys compiled his latest book One Man Shows: The black and white years.

– Tamsin Metelerkamp, Daily Maverick, 4 January 2022

In his latest book, One Man Shows: The black and white years, Pieter-Dirk Uys takes the reader on a candid meander through his first seven one-man shows, a journey that spans 13 years between 1981 and 1994.

During a time of political turmoil, censorship and legalised racism, Uys’s satirical revues used humour and irony to show the double standards and immorality that marred South Africa under apartheid.

“I exploit reflections in the cracked mirrors of daily life, entertaining in a minefield. During the 1980s it was like doing the tango in front of a firing squad,” says Uys in his book.

The book includes the text of each show, from Uys’ first one-man show, Adapt or Dye, which opened on April Fool’s Day in 1981, to his 1994 election inspired One Man One Volt, which was performed during the days of South Africa’s transition to democracy.

Along with the scripts, Uys provides the backstories of each production. Through sharing personal anecdotes, political insights and the media reactions from that time, Uys allows the reader to understand the social backdrop against which the shows took place.

The book is brought to life not only by the text, but by a patchwork of photos, posters, newspaper clippings and other sentimental keepsakes from a lifetime in the arts. The faces of many of Uys’ characters Nowell Fine, Piet Koornhof, and of course, the iconic Evita Bezuidenhout peer out from the pages.

While the “black and white years” of 1981 to 1994 are behind us, the themes that can be found in Uys’ work corruption, State Capture, political tensions still hold relevance in today’s South Africa.

The book is a reminder to look critically at the world around us, and to never underestimate the unconventional power of theatre in a time of societal upheaval.

The link to One Man Shows: The black and white years can be found here.




eNCA speaks to author, activist and satirist Pieter Dirk-Uys about his latest book

ONE MAN SHOWS: the black and white years

13 January 2022

Pieter-Dirk Uys releases new book

Weekend Special, 27 July 2023

Pieter-Dirk Uys has released his new book One Man Shows: The Mandela Rainbow Honeymoon (1992-1999) and it is available to read and share online for free.

The book focuses mainly on the five years of Nelson Mandela’s presidency, starting in 1992 with An Evening with Pieter-Dirk Uys, when racist chalk promised to become democratic cheese. In Bambi Sings the F.A.K. Songs and Other Struggle Anthems, you’ll meet Evita Bezuidenhout’s younger sister Bambi Kellermann in her raunchy cabaret, and realize that by 1995, You ANC nothing yet!

Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s emotional TRC is showcased in Truth Omissions, while in Darling, Evita se Perron celebrates a revisionist history of old South Africa with Tannie Evita Praat Kaktus, as well as the present realities, all Live from Boerassic Park. In London, the 1998 premiere of Europeans Only reflects the EU confusions, with a South African tongue firmly in cheek.

In 1999 Evita Bezuidenhout addresses Parliament and then goes on an extensive election trek from Darling to Pietersburg. With the dawn of a new century and a new president, Dekaffirnated makes its own statement with humour and optimism where possible. It all really makes sense of Tannie Evita’s favourite slogan: “We don’t need a crystal ball to see where our country is going. The future of South Africa is certain; it’s just the past that is unpredictable!”

Humour and irony

The first volume One Man Shows: The black and white Years (1981-1994)  has been available since December 2021. Uys, who has made all of his dramatic play scripts available online, spent the 2020 pandemic lockdowns sorting out the satirical revues that have been part of his life since 1981. One Man Shows: the black and white years includes his first seven one-man shows.

It takes the reader through the revues that dodged censorship and the authorities, and shows how he used humour and irony to highlight the hypocrisy and corruption that were part of South Africa’s daily life under apartheid. It is already being shared by school children in South Africa. They choose sketches from the revues of the 1980s and give them life. Both books are free to read and download at: http://pdu.co.za/OneManShows.html



Pieter-Dirk Uys on how telling jokes helped him survive school and the teacher who changed his life

– Pieter-Dirk Uys, News24.com, 19 July 2023

In 1960, when Dr Hendrik Verwoerd was pulling South Africa out of the British Commonwealth and remaking us as a republic, I was a 15-year-old pupil at Nassau, an Afrikaans state school in Cape Town. It was run by a strict and pompous principal and oriented towards Christian nationalist education, the policy of the apartheid state.

One day, soon after the Sharpeville riots, hundreds of people, most of them not white, marched in from the townships and past our school. They were on their way to parliament to demand the end to passbooks for blacks. All we could hear were sounds that we thought were tanks rumbling alongside the march.

We were told to lie under our desks and pray. This felt like the end of the world. A few years later at the University of Cape Town, I met some fellow students who were part of that march. I told them of our terror. They laughed. One said, "Why didn’t you come and join us?"

At school no one questioned apartheid. It was thought normal. We, the Afrikaners, were right and everybody else was black.

I had many teachers in high school, mostly products of the brainwashed society teaching us in a brainwashed way. But there were two exceptions. Meneer du Toit taught us the history of the Afrikaner (then recently rewritten in Pretoria). His job was to spread the word. He did it by telling us exciting stories.

The other teacher was Miss Nel, who taught our second language, English. A small woman with chiselled features, she looked a bit like Meryl Streep crossed with Bette Davis. She went far beyond her duty.

She’d just returned from London, where she’d been teaching rowdy Cockney kids for a year and shared her stories with us; made us feel like grown ups; made us curious to know more. As we worked towards the two national exams, she made learning personal and enjoyable.

Miss Nel took the class to see our Shakespeare set work play at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Little Theatre in Gardens. I will never forget the magic of King Lear. When that curtain went up, my life was changed forever. Miss Nel also asked us each to write her a poem. The prospect terrified me.

"In English? … No, Miss, I can’t."

"Yes, Pieter, you can . . ."

"No, Miss, I can’t . . ."

"Pieter, you can do anything! If you believe in it, and work towards it, you can do anything."

Aloise Nel also gave me the confidence to become a performer. As a constant target of the bigger boys, I learnt to survive the hard way, and learnt to tell jokes and make them laugh and that way forget they wanted to beat me up.

I would also hide in the girls’ toilets! Maybe that’s where I started illuminating tough life through entertainment.

After I left school, Miss Nel got married to Peter Lambrecht and had three children. She moved to Johannesburg and we kept in touch, firstly with Christmas cards and then with tickets to my shows.

I’d send her my scripts. She also pointed out what worked and what didn’t; sometimes she added: "Your spelling is still awful."

When she came to a new show, there was a great temptation to stop the performance and point to her and say that it was all thanks to her that I was on this stage.

The dawn of the new century saw my work at schools with details about HIV and Aids. I have also enjoyed hours discussing with learners about topics focused on humour in politics and the right to ask questions, a far cry from my school days, when it was taboo to discuss politics, question anything. Our fears back then remained unspoken.

Not all children get the full attention of parents. But every child should, could, must have a teacher who stands in for all the things parents are not able to manage. On my visits to schools I always tell the learners and the teachers about Miss Nel and how she, as my teacher and later my friend, changed my life.

My new book, One Man Shows, The Mandela Rainbow Honeymoon (1992-1999), is dedicated to such teachers.

Download your free copy of Pieter-Dirk Uys' new book here




– Pieter-Dirk Uys, I Love Yzer Darling, Winter 2023

It all happened during the thing called lockdown. Suddenly, somewhere in March 2020, the world stood still. Lights dimmed. Planes didn’t take off. Theatres closed. People stayed behind closed doors. It felt like the end of the world. It was.

The new normal-reality after COVID is nothing like the planet we left behind. Somewhere in between all that, I sat down at my computer and typed out all the satirical revues I’d performed during the dark years of apartheid: Adapt or Dye, Total Onslaught, Beyond the Rubicon, Rearranging the deckchairs on the SA Bothatanic, Cry FreeMandela the Movie and One Man One Volt.

All my plays are available on my website: www.pdu.co.za and I’ve had wonderful reactions and questions from readers all across the world. I never put my revues there, for the simple reason that a satirical topical entertainment from 1981 would make little sense when read in 2023. And, of course, I had to type the scripts out because during those years there was

no internet. Imagine! No internet?

So, as I was reliving those experiences of life under the former all-powerful and white National Party from President PW Botha, through Pik Botha, via Nowell Fine, nudging Piet Koornhof and ending with Evita Bezuidenhout, I shuddered wondering how I got away with what I did and said. But more sinister was the reality that the fear then, was still with us as a fear for now.

A backstory was needed to put the characters of the 1980s into perspective. Once that was done I realized that another backstory was essential to try and explain to a 21st century reader what the politics of apartheid entailed: laws absurd, obscene and sometimes paralysingly stupid. I ended with 488 pages, including photos. A book? Yes and during lockdown nogal!

I sent it to my publisher who reacted with excitement and enjoyment. ‘We laughed; we cried; we relived it all but there will be no buyers!’ They were right. Who in the middle of a state of disaster would spend R500 to buy a book about something that happened 40 years ago?

So the next step was obvious: I would launch the book through my website and that’s where it is, free to eye for anyone who wants to read it, print it out, share it with family and friends or just delete it! If the book was to be sold as books are, it would be in a bookshop for a few weeks, then on a lower shelf, and soon out of the view of the buyer.

That’s the way things go there. But now readers in Ukraine, New Zealand, Hungary, Mali, Orania, Mykonos, Glasgow, St Helena and Darling can go on the journey of a lifetime, free to explore the dark days of fear and fun, when laughing at politics was sometimes as illegal as praising democracy.

The first volume is called One Man Shows: the black and white Years (1981–1994). It has been in the public domain since December 2021 and the reaction has been humbling. My greatest enjoyment is the fact that our learners have chosen sketches from the book to perform, and then ask the question: why was Winnie Mandela in this type of show in 1985?

Then history enters the classroom, a rare and unprotected reality in today’s schooling. I am nearly ready to launch the second volume on Madiba Day, 18 July. One Man Shows: The Mandela Rainbow Honeymoon (1994-1999) will cover the shows that reflected so much hope and optimism: Bambi sings the FAK songs, You ANC Nothing Yet, Truth Omissions, Tannie Evita praat Kaktus and Dekaffirnated.

My future plans, with or without electricity, will include the third volume reflecting the Mbeki Years and his AIDS denialisms.

Then Volume Four celebrating the state capture of Jacob Zuma and the shows that reflected his inventiveness amid his giggles. Then the volume exploring the mystery and disasters of Cyril the Wise.

By that time I’ll probably know where the final indulgence takes place: a Malema dictatorship? Or have we by then become a Russian colony?

Time alone will tell. In the meantime, refresh your memory if you are of that generation. Otherwise explore the journeys with Google in close reach.



 'Drag queen? Jester? Subversive clown? Pieter-Dirk Uys, who do you think you are?'

His first one-man show, Adapt or Dye, opened on April Fool's Day in 1981 and introduced his alter ego Evita Bezuidenhout to the nation. Since then Pieter-Dirk Uys has continued to prod South Africans’ conscience and tickle their funny bones with his unique brand of satire.

In this extract from his new book, which fans can download free from his website, the much-loved entertainer looks back on his incredible career.

– Pieter-Dirk Uys, YOU, 19 January 2022

Months of forced confinement; the Covid-19 revolution hit me in mid-March 2020. Overnight 220 performances for the year were cancelled.

“Social distancing” meant “Stay at home!” Especially my age group. Eskom switching off our power for hours a day in rolling blackouts had already forced me to reinvent the uses of darkness. With a few candles lit, I could clear out cupboards, sort papers and rearrange costumes in my theatre attic. The lockdown gave me even more scope.

Since 1973, I had written and performed 46 one-man shows. Now I suddenly had time to add the texts of the satirical revues to my website (www.pdu.co.za), where all my plays are already free to read, and the interest in them has been inspiring.

As I worked through this material, it started forming itself into something other than an archive. Besides the texts that covered the apartheid years, I found myself looking back on a 40-plus-year career in the theatre.

Most of the work was instinctive, much of it raw and naïve. In the passion of the moment there was no explaining and analysing, few discussions, not even the acknowledgement of fear and danger which was there every day. But now I had time to explore and understand what I had done back then.

As the words “satire” and “satirist” became part of a CV, I found [American stand-up comedian] Lenny Bruce’s definition in the late 1950s: “Tragedy plus time equals satire.”

That couldn’t quite work for me in a South Africa of legalised racism; the tragedy of the day had to be exposed that evening. But the truth was seldom funny or entertaining. Media was controlled; the press heavily censored.

Under apartheid, everything accepted as daily life was manufactured and handed to us as “the facts” by the regime. So how do you expose those lies and tell the truth in such a situation? It needed the masks of characters. Because fear is true, but so is laughter.

Looking back now, there is surprisingly still much in the material to laugh at. I avoided telling jokes. The truth could be bitterly funny and that was the dynamo of my shows: people could laugh at their fears, because that is what I also had to do. I would not look away from the things that frightened us.

And so I laughed with my audience at the absurdity, the obscenity, the impossible odds. In order to expose racism, one had to reflect and show racism. Today, some of it makes me cringe, makes my skin crawl, but back then it had to be outed.

Live theatre is for me the audience, that precious collection of people giving their valuable time to forget about the monstrous in their lives; the foundation of my dreams since the late 1960s, when The Theatre saw me and decided that I was the perfect sucker to capture. Life imprisonment without parole.

When filling in forms I always dither at “Occupation”. Writer? Playwright? Performer? Yes, and more. But I’m not a politician that’s a cul-de-sac. I exploit reflections in the cracked mirrors of daily life, entertaining in a minefield. During the 1980s it was like doing the tango in front of a firing squad.

“Pieter-Dirk Uys? Who do you think you are?”

“Pieter-Dirk Uys? Wie dink jy is jy?”

It’s taken me over half a century to find out who I am. I’m not going to tell you. I want to show you, courtesy of The Oxford English Dictionary:

One-man band: a street entertainer who plays many instruments at the same time; a person who runs a business alone.

One-night stand: a sexual relationship lasting only one night; a single performance of a play or show in a particular place.

Stand-up: performing by standing in front of an audience and telling jokes.

Entertainment: the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.

Satire: the use of humour, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices.

Subversive: seeking or intending to subvert an established system or institution.

Comedy: entertainment consisting of jokes and sketches intended to make an audience laugh: a play with a humorous or satirical tone in which the characters ultimately triumph over adversity.

Offend: cause to feel hurt or resentful; be displeasing to; commit an illegal act; break a commonly accepted role or principle.

Drag queen: a man who ostentatiously dresses up in women’s clothes.

Humorist: a humorous writer, performer or artist.

Clown: a comic entertainer, especially one in a circus, wearing traditional costume and exaggerated make-up; a playful amusing person

Jester: a professional joker; a fool at a medieval court

I’m in the above somewhere.

This is an extract from One Man Shows, the black and white years by Pieter-Dirk Uys, published by Missing Ink. Download your free copy here.