Archived 2006 Articles about  Pieter-Dirk Uys

Eish! He's back for the bash

Tonight, 18 May  2006

When John Kani asked Pieter-Dirk Uys last year if he'd return to The Market Theatre for the 30th birthday celebrations, the immediate reply was: "Of course, man, I'm the house cat."

That's no exaggeration. During The Market's early years the then regularly banned playwright and evolving satirist pushed freedom of expression to the limit. Decades later Uys, now a household name and an institution in his own right returns to the theatre, where his world-famous one-man shows began in 1981, with Pieter-Dirk: Eish!!

It's been over a decade since Uys performed at The Market, in favour of Montecasino, The Barnyards and the Civic.

"Yes, I've been sleeping around. Evita put her first high-heel shoes on when Janice (Honeyman) was doing that wonderful revue Met Permissie Gesê, in what is now the Gramadoelas restaurant. Adapt or Dye was late night."

So Evita is actually not 70 years old, she's 25?

"Only in your mind, darling, because she was born in 1935. She was actually created in my Sunday Express column in 1978/1979 during the Info Scandal. For the birthday I'm doing one or two of the sketches from the early years. The irony is that nothing has changed — the government, the lies, the corruption and all the bullshit. It's just the colours and the action that has changed. Politics, as usual, my dear.

But the flag has changed. "That's the nicest thing. I was at The Market, with The Poggenpoel Sisters, when they announced the new flag on the 6 o'clock news. Nico de Klerk made me a design and rushed to the theatre so Evita could show it to the 8 o'clock audience."

Even though you're dealing with the same issues, you don't have to deal with that terrible censorship. Or is there a new censorship?

"There's a new censorship which is called self-censorship where people are too scared to have opinions. It's very strong especially with young people who want to go into business.

"My newest show, The End is Naai, which has traveled all over the world and is on video, has been turned down by all the TV stations and video companies because, I've heard between the brackets, 'you insult Thabo Mbeki'. So it's back to normal. I don't mind being outside the laager, I've been outside all my life. It's nice to get back to The Market; theatre is wonderfully free and vibrant."

Since you began working with The Company, with Selle ou Storie, in 1975, before the move to Newtown, can you single out the funniest moment?

"One of the funniest was opening a new play on the Wednesday and a major critic destroyed the play, with one of those appallingly personal reviews. Saturday night there was another opening and I went up to him and said: 'Darling, when did you get back from overseas, you must come and see my new play'. I thought he would have a heart attack! That's where I learned my lesson: love your enemy and ruin his reputation.

"We laughed so much. But there were also some spooky moments. Remember the abattoir was up the road? You could hear the animals scream. One day an ox jumped out of a truck and ran down the road. I will never forget that ox running to freedom. It was such a vivid memory.

"Another memorable moment was during Total Onslaught when Evita had her big white Cadillac convertible parked outside in the street. She would leave and all the people were standing around, even some security policemen. We always knew who they were. And they came for an autograph!

Nowadays you work without a director on your one-man shows. Why?

"It's very difficult because a one-man show is very personal; I live and fall by my opinion. I don't have a standard script, because it changes all the time. In fact, now I'm working without black-outs. Firstly because I think it's politically incorrect to have a black-out. Secondly, if I can act into a character let me act out of a character and not indicate to an audience when they must clap. They must decide.

"It's to get down to the bare bones of performance — it's just me, a few props and a box. Now people are writing theses about my brilliant Brechtian style. In the old days I was too scared to leave the stage because the police were waiting for me. If I stayed on the stage they couldn't gaps me. That's where it started. It's got nothing to do with style.

"Entertainment is frankly the only way left to educate and inform people. They don't want to be preached at, or frightened. They want to have a good time and within that framework you have to make them listen to things they don't want to hear. Humour is my weapon of mass distraction.

"I've got such a chorus line of characters and some really interesting new things for The Market. I've got to keep up with what Jacob Zuma's doing. I don't know if he is good enough to be on stage. But he is certainly worth a few laughs. He probably spends all his time in the shower."

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