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Good living: Theatre with Pieter-Dirk Uys, Actor

 –  John Fraser, Classic Business, 27 March 2009

JOHN FRASER:  On tonight’s good living spot we’re talking about going to the theatre, certainly for me from a very young age, it was always one of the family occasions that brought us together.  We went out, had a nice meal, saw a good show and hopefully you ended the evening feeling happier and wiser and just with a grin on your face.  Therefore, to talk about the theatre we’ve decided to invite someone whose life is the theatre and certainly, who has brought a lot of delight to South African theatre goers over far too long — Pieter-Dirk Uys.

We are talking to you in your theatrical producer hat.  You have a play on at the Market Theatre at the moment…

 PIETER-DIRK UYS:  At the Market Theatre — a play called MacBeki, which is inspired by Shakespeare and some local comrades.

 JOHN FRASER:  Did you as a child go to the theatre — was it a family event/

 PIETER-DIRK UYS:  You know it was always an event to go out together for entertainment.  We usually went to the concerts because my parents were both concert pianists and my sister — I remember the Mozart triple concerto they played with David Tidbold at the City Hall — I sat up in the gallery with my grannies and everybody sort of shook their heads and said “Pieter what are you going to do with your life?”  I thought “hello, I wonder what” and now I’m doing it also in the SME way because entertainment is what's going to take you out of your home, away from all your worries, bundle your kids in the back and they want their iPods and their Walkman’s and then you take them to magic land, which is still the theatre.

 JOHN FRASER:  Do people behave in the theatre — because I’ve been to the cinema where people chat to one another the whole time, ruin the whole performance… obviously we have all sorts of buzzing and vibrating devices around us and that can be a distraction as well.

 PIETER-DIRK UYS:  You know television hasn’t helped — people are so used to shouting at the TV and it doesn’t shout back and when they talk loudly you realise that they actually forget that they're real.  In a one-man show, it’s easy because you can stop the show, or play with them.  But in a play where you have got that fourth wall, where you have got that discipline of ensemble — we have 10 actors in MacBeki.  It’s difficult and yes, to answer your question, they do behave but it’s a different sort of energy.  It’s a very short attention span — in other words, they're not going to sit for 10 minutes waiting for you to explain something, they want to know now, which is a great discipline for me as a writer, to cut to the car chase.  You can't preamble, you go from the moon to the naked bosom in the bed, and there you’ve got Joan Collins — she has three words and you know where you are.  So, it’s a challenge and it still is the most wonderful feeling — not just to be on stage and hear it, but also to sit in an audience — I always go early.  I remember doing that at Drury Lane, right in the old days when I got a ticket to this great 2,000 to 3,000-seater theatre and I went terribly early.  I was the first one in and then slowly you heard more people and the buzz, and the excitement and its tangible.  And still to this day, there's that feeling.

 JOHN FRASER:  Are there still people who dress up to out to the theatre?

 PIETER-DIRK UYS:  They do — I don’t because I’ve got to dress up to be on stage.  If I walked in there in a long dress people would think its Elizabeth Taylor from Brakpan.  But I would like people to feel freedom to show off a bit and sometimes when you have a gala evening they’ve got to dress up and that’s an order and you don’t want to say to people, dress up because you have to.  You don’t have to — you can come in shorts if you like — its not what you look like its what I look like on stage — and be comfortable and really truly, by that one means leave your problems behind.  Don’t bring your SMS, your newspaper — don’t sit there with a frown.  I have to try and relax you before I start on stage, maybe with a poster or music or a programme that people don’t buy, so you give it away.

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from 2009