Urban Craft magazine’s own Godfrey Johnson (GJ) caught up with South African satirist,
playwright and icon, Pieter -Dirk Uys (PDU). Below is how the deeply enlightening
exchange in which we got a ‘behind the scenes’ look at one of the continent’s most
celebrated minds went down……….
– Godfrey Johnson, Urban Craft Magazine, April 2019
GJ: “How can you see straight when your imagination is out of focus?” My favourite
Mark Twain quote. What keeps your imagination in focus?
PDU: There is no fence around my imagination which allows me many surprises. I imagine
conversations, q & a's, arguments and usually expect the worst, hoping it will never
be as bad as I imagine. That's also called 'optimism'.
GJ: You are a playwright, satirist, humanitarian, songwriter, film maker, novelist,
icon and the list continues. All this seems almost impossible to juggle with equal
attention, yet you do. How do you do this?
PDU: I suppose like a pianist who can play Mozart, Bach, Scriabin, Satie and Gershwin.
You just don't mix up the styles and the alphabets. It also gives one the chance
to work on many projects at the same time. Variation is like mental aerobics.
GJ: Can you name a few of your favourite writers?
PDU: I focus mainly on biographies and autobiographies, knowing that they are usually
more fake than fact — but always interesting to see how a life is created and then
manipulated to fit the brand. Not much time for fiction, because fact is more creative
and news is the bland fiction of the day.
GJ: Of all the great theatre in the world, what play would you chose to go back to
as a reminder of how to tell a story?
PDU: I suppose the Bible is the most successful story that has millions of fans.
Personally I think it needs major editing. Samuel Becket's 'Waiting for Godot' is
a good example of nothing leading to something: the story there is what you fill
in between the empty spaces. Noel Coward and Tennessee Williams allow their stories
to gush forth like a flood. Shakespeare's plays are always top of the list for many.
I admire him from afar.
GJ: You brought your own life onto stage recently in the deeply personal and lyrical
show, “The Echo of a Noise”. Is it a challenge not to take the challenge of transforming
into other characters?
PDU: On the contrary, ECHO presented me with a new chorusline of characters who demanded
dimensions of reality and truth: a father, mother, sister, 'domestic supervisor',
movie queen and the multi-phrenic me.
GJ: Does our public discourse risk becoming insensitive with its current heightened
PDU: The current heightened sensitivities are sadly not shared by the masses, but
sneakily conjured up in the boardrooms of control. Public discourse becomes channeled
along politically-correct furrows of fabricated issues. We have lost the humanity
in our opinions. It is now just crammed with fashionable verbal muzak.
GJ: Do you think satire is keeping up with the times?
PDU: Satire is dead. Trump, Brexit, Putin, Malema, Kardashians, religions have all
broken the glass ceiling between reality and satire. When democratically-elected
governments can use democratically-accepted ways to destroy democracy, what weapons
of mass distraction do we have left? Ridicule? Contempt? Hate? There are laws to
turn all those emotions into apologies. Satire does not apologize.
GJ: I cannot imagine a South Africa without the voice of Pieter-Dirk Uys. You have
touched countless hearts, minds and souls and continue to do so. So many of your
words have become part of our vernacular, you are constantly quoted. Is this something
you would have ever imagined as a little boy?
PDU: I, for too long, imagined that everyone thought like I did. I was wrong. But
one thing did come true: I always knew I would do something different, something
unique, something without an easy name or description. I think I'm still trying to
explain what it is.
GJ: Who makes you laugh?
PDU: The stupidity of us that has become the accepted code of conduct. And someone
slipping on a used condom and breaking a wrist? That's very funny.
GJ: Bambi Kellermann, Evita Bezuidenhout, Ouma Ossewania, the children, the grandchildren,
the husbands and the very large chorus of extraordinary characters. Your brain is
like a delicious opera. What would you call this opera?
PDU: An Opera called Win-Free? Call it 'Backstage in the Brain'.
Pieter- Dirk Uys’ Upcoming Shows
*London season 6 - 25 May at the Soho Theatre.
*Montecasino Toerien Theatre Johannesburg: July/August: PDU and Evita Bezuidenhout
in "#HeTwo" / also at Theatre on the Bay Cape Town August/September
The Evita se Perron channel on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/EvitaSePerron)
hosts Evita’s Free Speech, a weekly feature on the state of the nation and the world
now beyond its 190th episode.