Archived 2009 Articles about  Pieter-Dirk Uys

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Daggers for Mbeki

 – Adrienne Sichel, Tonight, 5 February 2009

To avoid bad luck actors never talk about "Macbeth" but "the Scottish play" instead.

All of which makes Pieter Dirk-Uys's MacBeki all the more intriguing.

Will there be whispers about the Mzansi play?

Or will the illustrious cast throw caution to the politically-charged wind?

Audiences will have great fun unravelling the Bard's original characters who have morphed into all-too-familiar South African comrades and politicians.

Fezile Mpela's MacBeki will succumb to his lethal ambition prodded on by Lady Manta (Nthati Moshesh, who has immortal lines like "out, out, damn beetroot spot").

Lord MacZum (Sello Sebotsane) waits in the wings where Maduba (Arthur Molepo), the old king, has held sway.

Also in this power struggle equation are Lord RamaBanquo (Mpho Osei-Tutu) and Prince McTrev (Coco Merkel).

Don't expect sangoma-like witches.

No, they are a combination of journalists and businessmen called Sosal (Renate Stuurman), Angla (Meme Ditshego) and Giltfields (Kenneth Fok).

Produced by The Market Theatre MacBeki, a comedy, described by its creator as "a farce to be reckoned with", has its world premiere on April 1, which has special significance.

"I'm very happy with April Fool's Day and politicians," PDU quips.

"I opened Adapt or Dye at The Market, on April 1, in 1981. In my version of Macbeth nobody dies. My lot get taken back into the collective leadership, which is worse than death! I've got the Polokwane Forest and marching on Luthuli Castle."

"From Monday this week I am doing the production as a work-in-progress with UCT drama students, with Chris Weare directing. We are working on the text."

Rehearsals start in Joburg on March 1.

When asked why he decided do a play now (the last one was Auditioning Angels, in 2003), what with Evita running her Evita's Peoples' Party and campaigning nationally in her show Elections & Erections, the answer is typically witty.

"I don't decide. It's like, 'O God, I'm having a baby'. In the past five years in my revues, I have been mentioning the sinister bubbling of Macbethian intrigues.

"In 2008, when I was performing Elections & Erections in Boston, I went to New York and saw Patrick Stewart's Macbeth . Wag 'n bietjie, the bells started jangling in my mind. Not about the Macbeths, but about the power struggle. It's a wonderful amalgam of greed, superstition, arrogance, entitlement, all of those. I got the script the next day. In the Shakespeare it's all there.

"The day after I got back from the US, I went to the Hydro in Stellenbosch, to get my weight back. The play popped out in four days. I was back there last week to learn my lines for Elections and Erections. It is like going into a monastery to marry Jesus."

Dubbing this venture "Pieter-Dirk Uys-peare" the writer-director is adamant that audiences don't have to know the original play.

"We make it clear who's who in our zoo. I am not deconstructing Shakespeare, but Thabo Mbeki.

"I'm not a fan. I saw through him in 2002 when I wrote a (public) letter accusing him of genocide and, six months later, another letter, after he said he didn't know anyone who had Aids. Now there's the legacy of 200 000 people who've died of Aids. It's not revenge. It is important to have compassion for the character who can bring tears to your eyes.

History keeps playing tricks.

"The news changes by the minute. When I wrote the play, Thabo Mbeki was president. Then he wasn't. I thought: Oh God, my play!

"Then there was Judge Nicholson's verdict on Zuma in Pietermaritzberg and the Appeal Court decision. But the play gets better (every time), because it is not a mirrored reality. These are not impersonations, there's so much interpretation for the actors to do."

The cast purposefully features only one white face, Lizz Meiring, as the Porter (and Celine Dion). Thereby hangs a satiric, politically correct, agenda.

How were the auditions? "I never audition. I'd rather take them for coffee. After five minutes I know. I have never been let down.

"Sometimes I have to rethink how they approach a role. As a director I'm very much a traffic cop. They have to drive as long as they don't speed, aren't drunk, or crash. I miss writing and directing. It is the flexing of new theatre muscles."

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