REVIEWS of WHEN IN DOUBT SAY DARLING in JOHANNESBURG — APRIL 2018
Pieter-Dirk Uys & the satire that keeps SA laughing
– Masego Panyane, The Star Tonight, 18 April 2018
Four decades worth of work is a great achievement. Pieter-Dirk Uys has reached the
proverbial mountain top, and When in Doubt say Darling, is Uys telling his story
as he wants to.
It’s a one-man show, and the stage is filled with box upon box, which happen to be
the props — costumes, hair, hats, glasses and a newspaper featuring the day’s news
that he has used over the years.
It felt awfully like a farewell show. Like Uys is using this show to retire. This
was the first sobering moment for me; something that drove home the point that with
all the deaths that have been around us, and shows like these, it is truly the end
of the era.
When I had the chance to have a cup of tea with Uys, he explained where the title
of the show had come from. And it’s a chuckle-worthy anecdote. Almost every single
event in his life, whether on or off stage, has been in dazzling high definition
colours, one wonders if along the way he’s had any ordinary experiences.
He’s clad in a black T-shirt, sweat pants and sneakers for a large chunk of the show,
which enables him to do quick wardrobe changes on stage.
Of the many characters he has portrayed on his stage, there’s a select few who make
it to this show, namely Jacob Zuma, PW Botha, Piet Koornhof and his alter ego, the
most famous white woman in South Africa, and a member of the ANC in good standing,
En route to bringing out Evita, Angela Merkel and Theresa May pop up unexpectedly,
and Uys delivers sharp impersonations of the two women.
In between the skits, Uys shares stories about his life in Darling.
I loved hearing about how the children of the town are getting to experience the
arts and so many other things. The joy in this life he’s lived for the last 22 years
is clearly evident in Uys’s voice when he talks about these experiences.
There is one small thing. In that audience, I was possibly one of the three younger
people, with the majority of the audience being white men and women who are well
over the age of 50. And the nostalgic laughter of the audience made me feel like
I was peeking through the window while some senior citizens were reminiscing about
the good ol’ days.
Some of the references required me to Google them for understanding. Which in all
fairness, Uys warned would be the case. The other stuff was funny.
From the complexities of being a white man who satirises black politicians, to the
irony of Piet Koornhof dating a coloured woman and the unbelievable tendencies of
PW Botha, Uys packages these moments in a mixture of sketch and commentary.
A really touching sketch was about a man moving to a retirement village. I wondered
if this was a reflection of Uys’s thoughts about growing old and retirement. You
could also feel the energy in the room becoming a little more sombre.
If you know Uys, you probably have an opinion about his work. Love him or hate him,
watching him on a stage is always an experience.
And who knows? This may just be the last one man show we get from him. All the more
reason to see it live.
Pieter-Dirk Uys can best be described as the gift that keeps on giving.
This South African cultural gem returns to Jozi with a show, "When In Doubt Say Darling,"
crammed with memories, all of which he hauls out from a stage loaded with boxes.
He is not moving from the small town of Darling in the Swartland, but needs to get
rid of some of his baggage. But as he digs through the various files and costumes,
vivid images appear as he recounts an engaging story of his life in Darling and in
theatre and what it has meant to him.
He describes the characters he met when establishing his little theatre there and
how they impacted on his life; the barefoot boy who sang his heart out and the other
little tyke who had never seen the sea.
A one-man artist who has perfected his craft, Uys has a wonderful rapport with his
audience, punctuating his stories with some naughty asides and infectious laughter.
He re-visits a few of the politicians he has played since the 80s. Favourites such
as PW Botha and Piet Koornhof (with the big ears) miraculously materialise before
your eyes. A highlight of these impersonations is the skilful manner in which he
morphs from PW to Jacob Zuma, with a costume change and rearranging his facial features.
He talks about his move to Darling, calling it "the best biggest mistake" he ever
made. He has been in the town for 22 years and became something of a landmark — even
having a street named after his famous alter ego, Evita Bezuidenhout.
Evita appears, too. She wouldn't want to miss this party and watching her come to
life with make-up, an African print top and a wig raised the roof. His anecdotes
about his meetings with Madiba (who loved Evita) and his relationship with the late
Winnie Mandela add to the jigsaw of his life — one that has been well spent in contributing
immeasurably to the South African theatrical landscape.
There is still plenty of life in this 'old' man and may he remain the satirical genius
he has proven to be!
When In Doubt Say Darling is on at The Studio, Pieter Toerien Theatre, Montecasino,
Fourways until 22 April.
– Leon van Nierop, What’s on in Joburg, 9 April 2018
Reviewing a Pieter Dirk Uys-performance nowadays (especially for his fans) is like
critiquing an annual Saturday evening dinner party at your best friends’ place. It
stands to reason that you are going to enjoy it. You know what to expect, although
there could be some inspiring detours into unpredicted terrain with new topics, which
makes the evening even more exiting.
Enough to say that you will get everything from this show that you’re used to. But
what makes it so agreeable and entertaining is presentation: so simple and uncomplicated,
audiences just sink into their chairs and stay there for 80 minutes without being
aware of how quickly the time passes. Uys keeps you riveted by simply chatting to
you as if he’s known you for 40 years.
As so often before, Uys stands on stage and doesn’t move around a lot, so there are
no ‘big show’ numbers or attempts to prettify the production. The power lies in his
easy-going rapport with the audience (who all feel like his friends) as well as some
new material that the regulars may not know. And for those in a nostalgic mood, there’s
the chance to cackle at his impersonations of P.W. Botha, Piet Koornhof and his alter
ego Evita Bezuidenhout.
The most heart-rendering sketch — the highlight of the show — sees an elderly man
packing up his belongings to move to a retirement village while his old dog, Smelly,
is watching him, probably near heaven’s door. The quiet sadness and melancholy memories
are touching and counts among the best Uys has delivered in recent years. Angela
Merkel and Theresa May also pop up unexpectedly and in quick, cutting and witty sketches,
Uys comments on their recent utterings or appearances. (Merkel’s hair!)
When in Doubt, Say Darling helps you to smile (in my case it was a cruel grin) at
what is happening in our country now and realising: it is your state of mind, your
own sense of having fun, and finding the dark comedy and satire in many real-life
situations that keeps us going. Strongly recommended. And when in doubt, just buy
When in Doubt Say Darling is on at Montecasino’s Pieter Toerien Theatre until 22