Archived Reviews


For Fact’s Sake



artsmart.co.za, 9 July 2000

The department of health should employ Pieter-Dirk Uys on a permanent basis to perform his show at every single school in the country, not to mention theatre, church hall or community centre. With his new show For Fact’s Sake (pronounce it slowly!), he is liable to achieve more in the fight against AIDS among the young of South Africa than 10 Sarafina 2s and all the workshops, talk and literature put together.

What is it about this man of brilliant logic that allows him to say the most outrageous things and people love him for it? Is he courageous, bloody-minded or driven by a desire to say what needs to be said, whether or not he gets paid for it. I believe it is the latter. He has a big heart and an acutely analytical brain and if he feels strongly enough about a subject, he is driven to do everything in his power — which is considerable — to do what he can.

Before the last elections, he introduced Evita’s Ballot Bus where he simply got together a small crew and headed for the outlying areas to explain to the uninitiated what voting was all about. In some places he was asked by the community why a man wearing a dress would take the trouble to care about them when their own politicians hadn’t been anywhere near them!

It’s this same determination that has prompted him to take an AIDS awareness programme to schools and he has woven the content into For Fact’s Sake. Recently seen on the main frame of the Standard Bank National Arts Festival, he takes on a number of characters, all accurately portrayed with his biting and incisive wit.

In the opening item, we see Felicia Mabusa-Suttle in sequinned jacket, talon fingernails and roving microphone. As in the TV show, this Felicia doesn’t give anyone else much of a chance to speak as she trots out remarks like "Facts published in the papers are racist fiction" or "Yesterday’s fact is tomorrow’s fiction".

Wig, fingernails and jacket are removed and we’re back to Pieter-Dirk Uys for real. He’s honed his well-known caricature of PW Botha to such an extent that a wagging finger is enough to produce howls of delighted recognition from the audience. "Apartheid is dead but the smell tends to linger," he says. And while "politics isn’t lethal, it’s just irritating."

What is lethal, however, is AIDS. Donning surgical hat, gloves and mask with a hole in it (for the pipe!), he takes off President Thabo Mbeki discussing the link between HIV and AIDS cleverly constructed to fit Hamlet’s "To Be or Not to Be" soliloquy. Mbeki also boasts that it has been discovered that both Shakespeare and Marlowe have African roots!

Other characters are a policeman on desk duty who is more interested in watching Hansiegate than listening to the continual phone calls for help from a woman who is being gang-raped. Noelle Fine (Going Down Gorgeous) asks her maid Dora for help in deciding which ribbon she must wear for an impending function "It’s blue for peace, I know pink’s for breast cancer, what’s the purple one for …?"

A particularly poignant section is devoted to Adele who was a virgin but contracted AIDS. She thinks it happened after a party where she had too much to drink. She can remember nothing except a vague image of a young man being quite close to her. Beautifully performed, this will hit home to those who will recognise the particular cough, shortness of breath and lack of energy synonymous with AIDS victims.

But the most memorable part of the programme is Pieter-Dirk Uys’s frank and hilarious account of his first experience at masturbation (my first one-man show!). He exhorts every member of the audience to accept the fact that is never too early to instruct children about sex: "I’ve just met a father who was nine years old. The mother was ten — she was obviously into toy boys!", he quips but the message comes across loud and clear. Arm children with the necessary knowledge to save their lives as soon as possible.

The subject of condoms is dealt with efficiently and amusingly and he finishes the show with Mandela who maintains that "the struggle is not yet over" and that he finds it sad that he must instruct his grandchildren to "put their love in a plastic bag".

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