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Pieter-Dirk Uys

PIETER-DIRK UYS: ‘I’m just the dumb blonde with the jewellery’

– Jani Allen, Sunday Times, 1980

 

IS THERE intelligent life on earth?

 

Certainly. And to all you Doubting Thomases — I should know. Why, I spoke to Pieter-Dirk Uys only the other morning.

 

Pietie, of the sparse wheaten hair, (”I look in the mirror and bemoan ‘Waar is die hare?’ ”), the shy, almost difficult manner and the magpie-marvellous mind, is so talented he’s enough to drive any aspiring writer to OD on Smarties — or at least encourage them to stick to writing out place-settings for dinner parties.

 

Pietie and sussie Tessie are on the warpath again! Sacred cows — beware!

 

The power pair (– in the words of a critic: one Uys is wicked, two Uyses are trumps –) are dishing up another devilishly delicious helping of ‘Uyscream’.

 

Their revue which opened at the Market Theatre on Wednesday, October 1, high on humour and low on calories, is a sequel to ‘Uyscreams from the Wimpey Archipelago’ — ‘Uyscreams with Hot Chocolate Sauce.’

 

The hot chocolate sauce is provided by Thoko Tshinga , who says Pieter with a naughty glint in her eye, ‘gives it a nice taste!’

 

Pietie is really rather retiring, he tells me, his face totem-pole serious, ‘until I start dancing on the table with feathers and things.

 

‘I’m a good listener — but sometimes I don’t listen accurately!’ he giggles, ‘and I’m a terrible gossip. I spread rumours!’

 

I find myself tongue-tied. (One always tends to get tongue-tied when meeting someone who is talented AND human.)

 

A rather precocious little boy (‘I stopped playing the piano early. Ja, man, thought I’d give Tessie a chance!’), he has been shocking grannies and innocent bystanders since he and Tessie used to put on huge ‘konserts’ for the folks at home.

 

‘Tessie was always the monster and I was always the ‘engeltjie’ ‘ he snickers, making a deprecating moue. ‘I was always a ‘bang gat’ …’

 

”My mother was a wonderful woman. When we used to play at eisteddfods, she would always say to us ‘If you win you’ll get an ice-cream. If you lose, you’ll get two …’ ”

 

‘Hey, listen’ he interrupts himself, ‘I heard two people discussing ‘The Gods Must be Crazy’, and one said to the other one ‘is that about the GOVERNMENT?’

 

The eyes are rounded in mock horror, the mouth pure Clara Bow.

 

‘Actually I work really hard. I enjoy staying home reading and writing … but I also like going to Hillbrow to jol!’ he adds quickly.

 

Er … what does jolling actually involve?

 

‘Ag, I play the pinball machines, and I check the people out, ek se, and I sommer talk to them!’

 

He puts on an accent like a refugee from behind the grape curtain. The irrepressible giggling, the ‘woordeskat’, the witty wisdom … Pieter makes Dick Cavett’s guests seem to have the personalities of paper cups.

 

He shares his Melville home with a cat called Eschel and a mouse called Katie and his NG Klerk upbringing with his concert pianist sister.

 

‘When I send up the verkramptes, I am always sending up the verkrampte ghosts in me. But I never poke fun at people – it’s their ATTITUDES that I find funny. Some of them seem to have their scripts all mixed up.

 

‘People were always telling me to get some qualifications I could fall back on. Funny, people never tell you to get something you can fall FORWARD on … but the thing is that you must always keep doing things. I always think I should be climbing the Andes, or swimming in the Amazon – or pinching Julie Christie or Warren Beatty’s bottom (I’m not fussy) – just doing things so that I’ll be able to talk about them when I’m old.’

 

Underneath the bitchy bon mots is a satirist of serious commitment.

 

‘You’ve GOT to believe in what you’re doing 100%. On the other hand you can’t get too intense.’

 

‘If you go to an audition, desperate for a part you give off a smell of need, you exude a kind of odour of greed — and that’s offensive!’

 

Pieter is a perpetual optimist. (‘What you sow you will reap’). High highs are achieved without drugs — they are born of a serious lust for life.

 

‘Drugs and I just never met anywhere along the line’ he says, wrinkling his brow.

 

We talk of censorship.

 

‘Soon censorship will become a luxury of the past. When I recently spoke to an okie connected with the censor board about why ‘Mad Max’ wasn’t banned, his reply was that the youth of today must get used to violence as that will soon be their way of life! It’s a sobering thought.’

 

‘Everything in South Africa is political. In England it’s all class, in America it’s money, but in South Africa it’s all the colour of the skin.’

 

‘People are always saying they wished that they lived in Berlin in the thirties — this IS Berlin in the thirties!’

 

‘I can’t play chess or bridge or do crosswords or spell! I’m illiterate!’ he muses, irrelevantly, and I suspect, untruly.

 

‘I’m just the dumb blonde with the jewellery!’

 

We agree that this can, after all, be a handy disguise to keep people out of your hair.

 

‘And I have a dreadful effect on plants. Even plastic plants wither and die in front of me. I’ve got the largest array of empty pots in Melville.’

 

Tessa is probably his best buddyroo, but he laughs ruefully as he tells me that Tessa never reads his scripts.

 

‘She always says ‘No darling, I’ll wait for the movie!’ ‘

 

A final question. Could he describe himself in three words?

 

‘Er. Pieter-Dirk Uys?’

 

The Uys is an ace!

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