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REVIEWS of THE ECHO OF A NOISE in DURBAN  — JULY/AUGUST 2017

 

Uys has never been better!

Pieter-Dirk Uys… at his very best in The Echo of a Noise. The show, reflecting on his past, is in Durban until August 6.

– Billy Suter, sosuterbill.com, 27 July 2017

 

A NATIONAL treasure, a theatre legend, a master craftsman, a constant inspiration and a genuinely nice guy, Pieter-Dirk Uys delivers his most poignant and gripping work to date with The Echo of a  Noise.

 

Since opening at Theatre on the Bay in Cape Town last year, the show has played to full houses and sold-out seasons.  I first saw it at last year’s Hilton Arts Festival at Hilton College, and enjoyed it again, every bit as much, on opening night in Durban on Wednesday.

 

This is an understated but towering show that has the almost-72-year-old Uys defrocked, unpowdered, real and vulnerable… calling back his past with vivid vignettes, often with his customary mischievous twinkle, and also ploughing patches of pathos. Little wonder his performance spurred an instant standing ovation — both at Hilton last year and at the opening performance in Durban.

 

The Echo of a Noise opens with a scratchy recording of Uys singing as a boy, then has him arriving on stage in black trousers, black beanie and a black T-shirt with “Almost Famous” on the front of it.

Pieter-Dirk Uys with his mother, Helga.

 

His smile draws enthusiastic applause as he sits on a chair placed centrestage in front of a curtain, and mimes along with the words of the song …and then goes on to hold the audience tightly in the palms of his hands.

 

Without an interval, he enthusiastically dips into colourful, detailed memories of his early days with family in a thatched-roof home in Pinelands in Cape Town. He starts off recalling his longing for long pants as a 14-year-old, when two of his greatest pleasures were watching trains pass by, and waving to passengers; and scoffing rum and raisin ice-cream after church each Sunday.

 

Also high on his memory list is playing with Dinky cars in the garden of his home, where he always half-heartedly went about his regular chore of watering the lawn.

 

There are many wonderful stories he shares, and in between the joy and amusement there are tender, raw moments of sad reflection, not least the suicide of his Berlin-born mother, Helga Bassel, and the failing health of his father, Hannes Uys, over a festive season shortly before his death.

 

Uys also looks back in detail and with great fondness on his relationship with his beloved, Athlone-born Sannie, the family’s coloured domestic worker who clashed with Pieter-Dirk’s father but was always available for the family, ruling the kitchen like a fortress. The sharing of memories of Uys and her, in her Sunday best, voting together for the first time is a highpoint of a show filled with glistening nuggets of nostalgia.

 

Uys discusses his father’s resentment of his son following a drama career and how they eventually patched that up. He touches on his move to and years in London, as well as his decades-long fascination for and letter-writing to actress Sophia Loren, now a friend.

 

He recalls his grandmothers, his teachers, his pianist sister Tessa, his passions, his rocking the boat with friends on the theatre scene while showing a middle finger to apartheid laws and censorship. He recalls failures, successes and regrets. And he touches on lipstick and false eyelashes… and making a noise when everyone demanded silence.

 

He is simply superb in a show that is in town until August 6. Do not miss this masterful storyteller on fine form with a story laden with wit and wisdom. Booking is at Computicket outlets.

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THE ECHO OF A NOISE

He’s engaging, dramatic, poignant, bitingly satirical and hysterically funny — performing the most riveting two hours without an interval. But you barely notice the time. Don’t miss it!

– Caroline Smart, artSMart, 27 July 2017

 

The winner of a multitude of awards both here and internationally, Pieter-Dirk Uys walks onto the Elizabeth Sneddon stage simply dressed in a black T-shirt, trousers and beanie. The stage is bare except for a barstool but this lack of setting is barely noticeable as he creates wonderful images in his descriptions of people and places.

 

Born in Cape Town, Uys comes from an exceptionally musical family. His home was a thatched roof house in Pinelands in Cape Town. With a mixture of Afrikaans, German and Jewish ancestry, he has a fabulous library of stories to draw on. His parents — the highly popular (except to the young Pieter-Dirk) Hannes Uys, his mother Helga Bassel — and his sister, Tessa Uys were all accomplished pianists who often played together at orchestral concerts. Tessa is acknowledged as one of South Africa’s most distinguished concert pianists and has gone on to make her name internationally. It was a delight to learn of her childhood as well.

 

The beginning of the show takes us right back to his days as a 14 year-old. We listen to a recording of him singing at the time — a pure clear soprano. He yearned for long pants but it was thought this might cause his voice to break too soon! Memories include ice cream after church and the steam trains passing by. He reminds us with an ironic smile that he now owns his own station, the former Darling railway station which is now Evita se Perron, his cabaret and theatre restaurant.

 

He talks about his mercurial relationship with his father and handles his death with achingly beautiful emotion as he also does with the suicide of his mother.

 

A major influence on his life was the family’s domestic worker, Sannie, and the production comes full circle from the apartheid days, when the colour of their skin kept them apart, to the time when she really did become one of the family. He remembers her with such fondness, particularly when she and her friend voted for the first time.

 

Another strong influence, but someone who became a lifelong friend, is film actress Sophia Loren. Their relationship started with her simple reply to a star-struck young boy urging him to be brave. He tells how he searched for her home in Rome by identifying the buildings behind her in a photograph.

 

Memories pour forth of his early years. He was in the Navy but never set foot on a ship although he highly enjoyed his time stationed on the Bluff! The times he spent at the Space Theatre founded by Yvonne Bryceland and Brian Astbury in Cape Town in 1972 makes for a history book in itself. There is also much hilarity when he talks about how he manipulated the posturing Publications Control Board!

 

This production doesn’t poke fun at today’s political climate but the apartheid government and its leaders come in for a real whacking. There is only a very slight mention of Evita Bezuidenhout. The title refers to the days when theatrical censorship abounded but he refused to be silenced and insisted on making a noise! Thank heavens he did!

 

“Almost Famous” is written on his T-Shirt. “Almost”??? That’s a laugh. This is probably one of the most famous people in South Africa — next to Evita Bezuidenhout, of course! He’s engaging, dramatic, poignant, bitingly satirical and hysterically funny — performing the most riveting two hours without an interval. But you barely notice the time. The show has played to full houses and sold out seasons since it opened last year in Cape Town — so don’t miss it!

 

The Echo of a Noise runs until August 6 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in Durban

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Pieter Dirk Uys enthralls audience with solo performance

Echo of a Noise, the latest performance by Pieter Dirk Uys at the Sneddon offers audiences great insight into the life of this veteran theatre personality.

–  Wanda Daly, Berea Mail, 27 July 2017

 

POIGNANT, funny and nostalgic are just some of the emotions that ran through me last night as I watched veteran theatre personality, Pieter Dirk Uys in his latest performance,  The Echo of a Noise at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at UKZN’s Howard College campus.

 

I have to confess, I’m a huge fan and try not to miss any of his performances when he is in Durban, but last night’s solo act is probably the most memorable as he shared his personal history with such a profound sense of honesty that at times I was moved to tears.

 

From his childhood dreams of wanting to become a steam train driver to his stormy relationship with his Afrikaans father and his deep love for his German-born Jewish mother whose tragic suicide is told with such great sensitivity and love, the audience was captured for the full two-hour monologue. Not only does he share his treasured family memories, but also his quest to meet one of the great loves in his life, Italian actress Sophia Loren.  He acknowledges with great affection the influence of Sannie — the coloured maid who worked for the family at their home in Pinelands in the Cape — had on his life and his work and shares the endearing tale of how she became not only part of the family, but a great friend.

 

Of course a night with Pieter Dirk Uys is not complete without some political commentary and his tales of the struggle with the then National Party Censor Board and the courage it took to stand up against the draconian laws of segregation are shared with wicked delight.

 

I discovered a lot about Pieter Dirk Uys in those two hours, I could happily have sat for another two hours for more from this entertaining storyteller and performer. Do yourselves a favour, get tickets to the show, you won’t be disappointed.

 

The show runs until 6 August at the Sneddon.

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THE ECHO OF A NOISE

This wonderful trip down memory lane is a treasure and definitely a show not to be missed.

– Dawn Haynes, artSMart, 30 July 2017

 

Sitting on a stool and talking for almost two hours may seem an unusual way to entertain, but not if the person on the stool is Pieter Dirk Uys!

 

In his new show, The Echo of a Noise, Uys talks openly and honestly about his own life, his family, his formative years. This is an amazing glimpse into what created one of the most influential performers in South Africa.

 

Starting with his experiences as a boy of six years singing in church, the complexities of his family are revealed. With a strict Afrikaans father whose only desire was to play his piano but instead had to work daily in an office, and his mother, also a talented pianist, who was a German Jew who had to flee Berlin at the start of World War 2, his sister Tessa, a concert pianist and the lovable Malay housekeeper, Sannie, we become part of his family as his life story unfolds.

 

He speaks honestly and openly about his difficulties coping with a lack of understanding from his father, the unexpected suicide of his mother and his decision to follow a career in drama instead of getting a “job with a steady salary”. His devotion to Sophia Loren is refreshing and his sincere friendship with her was often his lifebelt. His clashes with the Publications Board and his journey from acting, to playwright, to satirist and finally to Evita, allow us an insight into this remarkable man who has definitely left his imprint on millions.

 

The people who influenced him are all there and they come to life as his subtle changes create each character during the narrative. For those of us who grew up in Apartheid South Africa with Springbok Radio as our main form of entertainment, the memories of this era flooded back. We laughed with him as we recalled similar moments in our own lives.

 

This reflective style of theatre is demanding on the performer, but Uys is a master story teller whose characters are always entertaining and at the same time often poignant. This wonderful trip down memory lane is a treasure and definitely a show not to be missed.

 

The Echo of a Noise runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until August 6. Booking is at Computicket.

 

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Pieter-Dirk Uys’ ‘The Echo of Noise’ is poignant and powerful

– Estelle Sinkins, the luvvie, 2 August 2017

 

WEARING a black sweatshirt with the legend ‘Almost Famous’, Pieter-Dirk Uys makes a quiet entrance on stage. Then, sitting on a stool in a pool of light, he begins to speak. The story he weaves in The Echo of Noise is funny, sad, poignant and utterly compelling.

 

His relationship with his father drives most of the narrative, with the opening seconds a recording of a young Uys singing, accompanied by his father, Hannes.

 

As a child he would travel around with his parents performing at weddings and on the radio for pocket money. He was always dressed in a kortbroek (short pants) because he says, Hannes was concerned that if he wore longs his voice would break!

 

As an Afrikaans family, church services were never an optional extra. And impressed by the classy cars they drove and the dominee’s apparent cast iron entry into heaven, Uys contemplated life as a pastor — or a steam train driver. The mind boggles at the thought of the country’s best known satirist doing either job.

 

Growing up Uys and his father struggled to find anything in common. Hannes was a strict disciplinarian, whose word was law; but also passionate musician, and the life and soul of a party. Who was the real man? It took Uys a lifetime to truly find out.

 

Uys’ German-born mother, Helga, a talented pianist, was a loving and supportive presence, even giving him a return ticket to Europe when he finished school. And when he chose to be an actor, it was Helga who encouraged him to pursue his dream, despite opposition from Hannes.

 

He would later discover that she was a Jewess and that she had been forced to flee the Nazis, with just her memories and a beloved piano, in the years leading up to the Second World War.

 

Sadly, his mother reached a point where she could no longer cope with the world and took her life at a viewing point on Chapman’s Peak. Decades later Uys continues to miss her presence in his life.

 

Listening to Uys share stories of his parents in The Echo of Noise, you get a sense that both had some slightly subversive tendencies. In Germany, Helga continued to perform as a pianist in spite of being banned by the Nazis from doing so, and Hannes — angered by the stupidity of the censors — told his son to make them look ‘belaglik’ (ridiculous).

 

The Publications Control Board, for whom Hannes worked, was the best public relations team Uys ever had. And he admits that in his days at the Space Theatre, and later at the Market Theatre, he went out of his way to tweak the National Party’s tail.

 

He was delighted to learn that one woman at the censor board had the task of writing out every swear word he had used in a banned production — even writing a note to him once to point out that he had spelt one of the words wrong. Uys and his friends had these letters framed and hung in the loos at the Space Theatre.

 

The Market was where he started doing his satirical impersonations of those in power. These now legendary sketches made the subjects look ridiculous and revealed the rank stupidity of the apartheid system and its rules.

 

Uys’ alter ego, Evita Bezuidenhout, also appeared at this point and today has a life practically independent from that of the man who created her. Word has it that the Tannie might be throwing her hat into the ANC leadership ring!

 

Another key person in Uys life was Sannie, the family domestic, who was a staunch ally when he was a child. She taught him the ‘real Afrikaans… the language of the Cape Flats, which makes the angels laugh’ and together they would listen to her ‘stories’ on Springbok Radio.

 

More importantly it was Sannie who stepped in to help care for Hannes in his final weeks and who remained a staunch supporter of ‘her other son’ until her death.

 

The Echo of Noise is, I believe, Uys’ finest work. He has dispensed with props and costumes and given us the chance to learn a little about himself, his life away from the stage and even his life-long love for Sophia Loren.

 

If, as he says life in the theatre has been, a life-time sentence, without hope of parole — then we have been blessed that Uys has allowed us to share it with him.

 

The Echo of Noise is at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Howard College campus until August 6. Tickets at Computicket.

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