It’s the great standoff between Pieter-Dirk Uys and his celebrity creation Tannie
Evita Bezuidenhout. He tells DIANE DE BEER about the battle of sharp tongues and
minds in #hetwo
– Diane De Beer, debeernecessities, 31 July 2019
It’s difficult to imagine how actor/writer/director (and the list goes on) Pieter
Dirk Uys (PDU) keeps producing fresh material — but a few minutes in his company,
listening to those ideas almost tumble over one another, the answer is simple.
It’s his vocation, his passion, and PDU (with all his personae) is unique. I am reminded
of a day decades ago when I slipped into a lecture hall at the then Pretoria Technikon
(now TUT) and listened to him chatting to drama students.
Quick and nimble, thinking on his feet, and everyone eating out of his hand, I was
quickly won over, but was certain that even though seemingly impromptu, this speech
was rehearsed. It was only many years later that I understood how foolish I was.
It’s simply the way he works and thinks and has fashioned a career not only brilliantly
but with versatility and such longevity.
It’s always new as out pops yet another gag — whether it’s that of Piet Koornhof
or who knows, decades later turned into Trump. He brilliantly used one of the Koornhof-driven
apartheid laws and moved to British immigration officers to show the world for what
it really is — up close.
Tannie Evita is one who just won’t let go. Ever since she slipped onto stage in 1981
(just short of four decades ago), she’s been misbehaving but as her creator explains:
Because she doesn’t exist, she can’t be real and then, she proves them wrong.
PDU and his master creation have never come face to face on stage until now. As his
publicity announces à la the LA Times: Uys dons false eyelashes and presidents listen.
And even if that’s perhaps no longer a compliment, Tannie Evita’s long list of celebrity
fans have been committed from the start and still remain true.
When he started impersonating her in 1978, it was illegal to have an opinion about
anything political, so he reasoned, maybe an Afrikaans woman with an NP husband could
spill the beans. “The fact that she was portrayed by a man dressed as a woman when
cross-dressing was also illegal, could force the edge of the envelope. Or maybe that
she was there for only one reason: to eventually make Nelson Mandela laugh. And she
And many others.
PDU knows a good thing when he has one. The myth keeps running: “For nearly 40 years
she has had to tolerate the impersonation of her by a local comedian,” reads the
publicity blurb. “She tried to sue him for libel; she swore never to allow him into
her life and yet, now in the 25th year of her democracy, she will be on the stage
with Pieter-Dirk Uys at the same time.”
There’s a hitch though says PDU with a dramatic pause: “It starts with her death…”
and sadly, you will have to go and see the rest for yourself because that will be
the fun of #hetwo — another of PDU’s gifts, titles, always read them carefully,
as therein also lies a tale.
Know that it will be fresh and new but never clean — tralala. He recently picked
up some flack because of Ouma Ossewania’s language. PDU is puzzled but not troubled.
“The title is Ouma Ossewania Praat Vuil.” They have warning notices, age restrictions
AND that title. Feels like old times as the wheels keep turning — round and round.
He has been put through the censorship wringer for most of his career. But that keeps
challenging him. There are so many taboos, some where he will bend the knee but others
he will keep challenging. In the apartheid years, the security police and the censorship
board presented him with sold-out shows, but he’s not going to do things for expediency
alone. Whatever happens, he deals with it. If people have a point, he will listen,
if not, he will tell them that too.
That both PDU and Tannie Evita will have you giggling in #hetwo while banishing the
truoubles of the outside world is a no-brainer. While he is aware of everything in
the entertainment basket, he’s never had a problem packing them in.
Apart from this latest creation, he currently has 10 shows in his repertoire. At
the drop of a hat, he can pack up his wardrobe and go.
He has teetered around on those high heels, donned too many wigs and battled the
elements whatever they might be on his own for decades. When people ask him about
his swansong, he’s retorts that every show might be one, he doesn’t know. But those
who have watched him through the years will know that he has always claimed that
he won’t stop.
He might do things differently, and with this coming face to face of PDU and Tannie
Evita, he pulls yet another trick out of his shimmering stage hat. There isn’t an
end to his inventiveness. He has done it his whole life, that’s how he rolls — to
his audience’s benefit and delight.
An artist isn’t always appreciated in his own land and PDU has been around so long,
many tend to take him for granted. Don’t! Live theatre has become a luxury and many
artists have had to turn to television or film just to pay the rent.
There are a few like PDU who knew from the start they would have to do it all. It
is the only way he can achieve everything he wants to. “I’m writing a new solo play,”
he says. “It has to be for one man only because I can’t afford to pay actors.” That’s
the reality and has been for quite a while.
Bambi, Evita’s sister is on her way to Berlin for a few shows. There’s life in quite
a few of his dames yet — and that’s how you do it.
And Tannie Evita shares her weekly comments on YouTube and Daily Maverick about the
state of her nation, where her Evita’s Free Speech has gathered supporters from all
the corners of the globe. Her 140 000 Twitter followers are also tuned in around
“My instinct drove me. I’m a terminal optimist which we have to be as artists because
what we do is total madness,” he said last year when speaking to Marthinus Basson
at a text market in Cape Town. This is what he wanted to do and where he wanted to
be — on stage among people with passion and humour.
He also had a message for artists: “You have to be a unique talent. Don’t be a copy,
we have enough of those. Be original. Don’t specialise, do everything. You must learn
the alphabet of the theatre — everything. Read, watch documentaries by people who
do what you want to achieve. Don’t be afraid to adore talent.”
And we do.
#HeTwo will perform in Johannesburg at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre from
July 31 to August 18. The run in Cape Town is at Theatre on the Bay from 27 August
27 to September 14. Book at Computicket or theatres.