At the age of 72, SA’s leading satirist has a new one-man show
– Diane de Beer, Business Day, 27 March 2018
The wonderful thing about Pieter-Dirk Uys is his maturity, the way he keeps his eye
on the future as he confronts, charms and sometimes chills people with his stories
about the past and present.
"The age of 72 is a very specific place to be," he says. "You can see your sell-by
date. The audition is also over. The disease to please has been cured. You don’t
have to prove anything; just improve.
"To quote from [a previous show] The Echo of a Noise: sort out your legacy. Make
sure you flush before you go."
That’s exactly what he is doing with Weifel oor Jy Twyfel: When in Doubt say Darling,
which plays at the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival followed by a season at Montecasino’s
Pieter Toerien Theatre.
"The stage setting is an area filled with cardboard boxes, crates and black bags.
Packing-up time. After 40 years I have a collection of props, costumes, wigs, eyelashes,
hats and Koornhof masks among old Nat emblems. The show is about sorting out, and
reinventing," Uys says.
"Out of a box comes a prop. I give it a place in our history, and then it also becomes
the centre of a new sketch, character, issue. I also weave throughout stories about
my d-word: darling.
"And living in Darling: the kids, the community, the hope, the humour and the reality
that if we do not look after our communities, the country will dissolve," Uys says.
"There is too much focus on government as a superman; government is the essential
toilet paper to help us clean up and move on!"
As always, this show started with the title. Uys drew inspiration from 1968, when
he was the only member of staff in Capab’s public relations department brave enough
to deal with Taubie Kushlick, who arrived to direct The Lion in Winter.
"Pietertjie darling, she called me, and I was at her bek se call!" he recalls.
"Instinctively, I knew how to handle her demands and maybe that was the beginning
of the rest of my life as a one-man band. PR is essential. Diplomacy is a foundation
to negotiation. When I kissed her goodbye, I said: ‘Mrs Kushlick, you call everyone
darling. You must call your autobiography When in Doubt say Darling’.
"She looked at me as if I had coughed. Didn’t get it. Didn’t use it. Now I use it!"
He understands he has a broader horizon behind him than ahead and he dusts off old
targets to remind audiences that bad politics easily reinvents itself as a democratic
"In this new show I even do Piet Koornhof in a sketch from 1984 with his focus on
illegal blacks, and then reinvent him in the same voice as an officer at Heathrow
Airport, sorting out refugees and illegals who want to get into the UK — not unlike
what we did in the old days of apartheid," Uys says.
"Yes, it is a full English Brexit. I am moving from the brittle political reflections.
Let the younger generation sort out their future. I am in my future."
Uys still has the discipline and energy to tour with three 70-minute solo shows in
his car. "I also treasure my independence. I have no staff: I am my own stage manager,
writer, director, performer, driver, publicist and sometimes my own worst enemy,"
His shows are all about the audiences. He wants to make a difference to their views.
He offers audiences an opportunity to laugh at their fears, to confront fear, to
understand it and prevent it from winning.
"There is no time for knock-knock jokes. The reality of the absurdity around the
obscenity of daily life is enough to fill 70 minutes. And then someone leaves my
theatre and realises that they have laughed at something they didn’t even dare to
He points out that SA has again teetered on the edge of a cliff, only to see "the
Ramaphosa wind gush up and level the playing field.
"We must stop blindly believing that things will get better. They won’t. What you
see is what we’ve got. Just make sure things don’t get worse."
Instead of watching the world, he suggests people look in the mirror and ask strangers
what their next move should be.
"Courage, honesty, compassion, healthy anger, information, respect and maybe a talent
to amuse," are his keys to success.
Weifel oor Jy Twyfel: When in Doubt say Darling plays at the Klein Karoo National
Arts Festival on March 29 and 30, followed by a season at Montecasino’s Pieter Toerien
Theatre from April 4 to 22.