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REVIEW of THE ECHO OF A NOISE in LONDON  — MAY/JUNE 2018

 

*** South African satirist relives his apartheid clashes

– Brian Logan, The Guardian, 5 June 2018

 

Part memoir, part nostalgia trip for white South Africans, Pieter-Dirk Uys’s new monologue is a world away from the arch satirical turns with which he made his — or rather, his alter ego Evita Bezuidenhout’s — name. There are no frills, just Uys in black, on a stool, narrating his life story from 1940s Cape Town via a London education and back to a career mocking the apartheid regime in theatre and drag. It’s performed in a low-key style, but Uys is a capable raconteur with an eventful story that shines a light on social and political history across two continents.

 

It will be most enjoyed by expat Afrikaners: several of the punchlines are in Uys’s native tongue; dewy-eyed memories of Springbok Radio elicit gurgles of recognition from compatriots in the crowd. You start to wonder whether these reminiscences of a sheltered white upbringing at 10 Homestead Way, Pinelands, are a bit too fond, as Uys recalls endless classical music recitals and sings paeans to his heroic Malay maid. But the childhood innocence — and ignorance — are soon punctured, and the second half recounts the actor and writer’s clashes with authority as, in situ at the radical Space theatre in Cape Town, he flouts one apartheid law after another.

 

At points, particularly as the monologue extends deep into its second hour, one craves dramatic structure, or some sense of where this monologue is going. Finally, its heroes — besides Uys himself — are his beloved mother, an exiled German-Jewish pianist, and his charismatic but disciplinarian Afrikaner dad. The former’s suicide gives the show its most heartfelt moments. A long-distance friendship with Sophia Loren provides a rather improbable subplot.

 

Uys ends his tale in 1994, when South Africa, blazing with hope, holds its first democratic election. A rueful aside acknowledges that those hopes have not been fulfilled. But recent history is not Uys’s territory here. Titled The Echo of a Noise, the show offers a privileged but engaged perspective on apartheid’s near half-century, from a performer who learned early to laugh at his own fears, and is still doing so.

 

• At Soho theatre, London, until 16 June. Box office: 020-7478 0100.

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