REVIEWS of EVITA BEZUIDENHOUT AND THE KAKTUS OF SEPARATE DEVELOPMENT in CAPE TOWN
— JUNE 2017
A potted history of SA at Tannie Evita’s imbizo
– Beverley Brommert, Cape Argus, 27 June 2017
MORDANT satire, insightful political comment, brilliant topicality and whimsical,
but intelligent humour — all the elements that have endeared Pieter-Dirk Uys to audiences
for decades are abundantly present in this latest offering from the comedian in the
guise of his alter ego, Tannie Evita.
The show amounts to a potted history of South Africa as seen from a perspective that
eschews the traditional chronicles of events, from the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck
to these shores in 1652, through successive invasions, the Great Trek, apartheid,
and liberation, to end in the murkiness of contemporary politics and state capture.
The context of this invigorating narrative is an imbizo organised by Tannie Evita
at Theatre on the Bay, which lends authenticity to the exercise while giving Uys
scope for some gentle harassment of selected members of the audience.
Part one of the two hour-long monologue, aptly described by Uys as “Queen Lear”,
has the performer in all the glory of a faux leopard ensemble with bling as he/she
deals with non-delivery of equipment for the event.
A Malema doll abandoned on a ladder is joined by a Tutu doll as the lady talks non-stop
on every conceivable topic, from fake news to bobotie, carpeting in Parliament, Donald
Trump, the relative weight and merit of books by Mandela, Mbeki and Zuma, toilet
paper from Zimbabwe, Jessie Duarte, bad diets, and the British Royal Family.
The fluent script is punctuated by a barb-a-minute until, exhausted, the speaker
shoos the audience off to refreshments at interval.
Part two brings the new version of this country’s history as the imbizo finally gets
under way — and a very alternative one it turns out to be.
All the long-accepted “facts” of South Africa’s evolution since the mid-17th century
are turned inside out, identities questioned (it seems Maria was Van Riebeeck’s mother,
not his wife); the Battle of Blood River was actually a jolly braaivleis misrepresented
in classrooms as a violent event; and state capture is nothing new as Paul Kruger
did it first. And just when this all starts to seem a little silly, the harshness
of present reality is brought into the equation, to sobering effect.
Uys prefaces the second section of the show with a statement in the style of recovering
alcoholics at an AA meeting (“Hi, my name is Evita and I’m a racist”), and by the
end of the exercise, proclaims, “Hi, my name is Evita and I’m a South African”. Mirroring
this reform are two cactus plants, the one representing the past and the other, the
present — with muted hope for the future.
Satire makes way for philosophy as pleas to respect our hard-won freedom and act
with energy take centre stage; our roots, history and culture are precious, whatever
our racial origins.
With its light and shade carefully balanced, its quirkiness countered by serious
issues, and its relentless pace, Evita Bezuidenhout and the Kaktus of Separate Development
has Uys at his ebullient best to entertain his audience while exercising its collective
Review: Evita Bezuidenhout and The Kaktus of Separate Development
– Benn Van Der Westhuizen, What’s on in Cape Town, 29 June 2017
The secret to Evita Bezuidenhout’s 22 years of enduring and controversial popularity?
Making hard work appear effortless. As we’ve mentioned before, age has imbued a more
sensible and faintly muted political softening of the grand dame of South African
satire. And with Evita Bezuidenhout and the Kaktus of Separate Development, she’s
back in top form, ready to roll with another hilarious foray into our cultural spectrum.
Theatre on the Bay’s intimate and cosy stage evokes a much more exclusive and tailor-made
mood to this show, and Pieter-Dirk Uys is still as incredibly sharp-witted and tenacious
as ever, bubbling with barbed lines even when off-script.
The production kicks off with a ravishing Evita drawing in chuckles without the utterance
of a single word. Dressed to the nines with not a hair out of place, she makes her
stumbling entry stepping through Theatre on the Bay’s shimmery curtains and… under
a ladder. For those not familiar with the old-wives superstition, walking underneath
an open ladder is akin to blasphemy. What a perfect promise to the rest of the evening.
The Kaktus of Separate Development’s comedy topic du jour is updated with a tenacious
rampage into the likes of Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma. But it doesn’t stop there.
Uys gradually works his way from Nelson Mandela (how neatly he kept his small cell)
to Thabo Mbeki (taking a piercing stab at his brick-thick and overcompensating autobiography).
The trouble with Uys’ Evita is that we are all in glee when the mockery is aimed
at our enemies, and at those we regard objectively as ludicrous. But the true test,
surely, is if we still laugh when it is directed at those we put on a saintly pedestal.
Satire executed masterfully is one that is accessible to everyone, regardless of
political leanings or fandom. With this production, Uys attacks everyone evenhandedly
and with the brazen self-confidence to occasionally attack himself. He implicitly
details Evita’s turncoat ways by explaining how she was hoodwinked by the National
Party, and her weathering optimism for the country and ties to the ANC. As he bemoans
the dubious origin of the Afrikaner, it seems Uys is still fiercely — even tiringly
Evita’s Afrikaner tannie-style anecdotes are generally more successful than her jokes.
The gossipy one about a hilarious elevator encounter with a groping male proves an
audience favourite. Unable to recall the mystery man’s identity, she notes that he
was orange haired. And her matter-of-fact recollection of casually bumping into a
wide-eyed Jessie Duarte in the foyer of Luthuli House, has us laughing away like
I used to think satirical comedy was a medium accessible to all, but of late it seems
audience members are perhaps somewhat complacent towards the current state of political
affairs. On the night of the performance I attended, there was a large number of
people who appeared either to be blasé or silently offended and disappointed. Yet
the entire experience ended up being eerily cathartic. More than anything, this was
a stark reminder of the value of live performance.
In an internet-obsessed society where everyone is an analyst, comedian, and PR executive,
my sense is that people are sick of hearing about Zuma, Trump, Brexit and the usual
band of misfits. Luckily Uys brims with a rare tactful creativity, weaving current
affairs into Evita’s brand of comedy to drive the point home. Uys is well aware that
in 2017, it is simply not enough just to tell some cute jokes for cheap laughs. There
must be some moral depth to it all.
With Evita Bezuidenhout and The Kaktus of Separate Development, Pieter-Dirk Uys presents
a production that is as tightly woven as Afrikaner correctness, but brilliantly disrespectful
and laced with a moral twist to fit into our contemporary vernacular.
Evita Bezuidenhout and The Kaktus of Separate Development runs at Theatre On The
Bay from 20 June to 1 July 2017
Scene It: Tannie Evita is bringing political satire sass back
– Barbara Loots, Theatre Scene Cape Town, 26 June 2017
Tannie Evita, the alter ego of iconic satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys, is a well-known theatrical
face that made a name for herself ruffling political feathers before the dawn of
democracy already. She is still at it and now back at Theatre on the Bay to continue
shining a follow-spot on the politically dubious in her latest offering, Evita Bezuidenhout
ant the Kaktus of Separate Development.
The risk with political satire is that it needs to be ever updated to remain relevant,
to not leave audiences feeling that they have heard it all before. It is the type
of comedy that cannot afford to become stale in either substance or presentation.
During the first half of the show, Tannie Evita is her well-known quirky self, setting
the historic scene of her kitchen crossing from NP to ANC and the reasons behind
it. You laugh occasionally but are initially left wondering whether this show is
but a nostalgic nod to the best of Tannie Evita?
Then you take your seat again after interval and a full set and tempo change greets
you with Tannie Evita even donning a new glam look too. The dramatic punch of the
stark contrast is clear: even if the landscape changes you must still be ever aware
of your political surroundings to spot the devils hiding in the often purposefully
repackaged, and potentially fake news, details.
From a theatrical entertainment perspective, the new material understandably shines
brighter than the nostalgic opening scene walk down memory lane, because it takes
you by surprise. The impact of the satirical balance between the familiar and the
new material will come down to the subjective preference of every audience, depending
on their life experience and backgrounds. The contrast can however be comedically
justified when viewed in the context of the post-interval opening line... one which
I don't dare give away. However, you can be assured that this Tannie, she will make
you think, and think again!
In that turn of scene moment you realise, this Tannie is bringing freedom of speech
sass back. She invites you to partake in a very entertaining Imbizo, explaining the
influence of alternate facts on South Africa from the perspective of diamond ownership
and the reconciliatory power of koeksisters, while also highlighting why you should
never let go of your inquisitive nature by being too gullible a follower of history
as (you think) you know it.
This show is a tongue-in-cheek intellectual commentary that in a public service setting
makes you flinch and giggle simultaneously, as Tannie Evita ridicules both the past
and the present, the Van Riebeecks and the Trumps, by shining a follow-spot on some
crucial truths. She delights in unashamedly peeling away at the layers of privilege
and prejudice in a take-no-prisoners manner... even if you are perhaps an American
or a Brit seeking refuge on South Africa’s sunny shores. At her Imbizo, no country
has amnesty in its relations to South Africa, and the right audiences in that critical
yet humorously inclined mindset, will adore her for her charming honesty.
Highlighting both sides of the “politics of power” coin through local and international
affairs and ‘affairs’, Tannie Evita in an intriguing showcase of satire attempts
to persuade her audience to never underestimate the importance of civic duty if they
want to claim as their own the democratic dignity it guards.
Book your tickets at Computicket for an audience with the Tannie Evita at Theatre
on the Bay, as she dishes up both the nostalgic and the currently controversial in
her latest show,Evita Bezuidenhout ant the Kaktus of Separate Development, until
1 July 2017.
EVITA BEZUIDENHOUT & THE KAKTUS OF SEPARATE DEVELOPMENT
– Karen Rutter, Weekend Special, 24 June 2017
“Speaking Truth to Power”. It’s one of those popular expressions that tend to surface
when somebody challenges The System, puts it to The Man or, in the case of Mbuyiseni
Ndlozi needling Baleka Mbete, questions Madame Speaker.
But it actually has some serious muscle as a message. The Quaker community is credited
with coining the sentence as a non-violent challenge to social injustice way back
in the 1950s, and more recently it has been adopted by movements such as #BlackLivesMatter
and #SayHerName. In an article on the Huffington Post (the original website), on
this very expression, there seems to be agreement that it stands for courage, notably
the courage to stand up for one’s own convictions, and to not be cowed by supposed
Pieter-Dirk Uys has essentially been doing this for 45 years, 35 of them in a dress
and high heels. As one of few outspoken satirists in South Africa during the apartheid
years, he used his skill as a playwright, actor, comedian, newspaper columnist and
author to challenge the racist status quo. His send-ups of apartheid leaders such
as Pik and PW Botha were legendary; even Nelson Mandela became a fan, from his prison
Still challenging the status quo
Fast forward some two decades since the demise of apartheid, and Pieter-Dirk still
finds himself challenging the status quo, albeit from a different angle. Since 2000
he has travelled the country on a self-funded mission to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS
through awareness-entertainment, reaching nearly 2 million school children. And he
has never stopped being busy as a playwright and performer — only this time, the
new regime has had to take it on the chin.
Fair play — the role of a satirist is to use constructive social criticism to draw
attention to aspects of society. And lord knows we have had plenty of “aspects”,
most notably during President Zuma’s watch, to draw attention to. But this is what
is interesting about Pieter-Dirk’s latest solo show, Evita Bezuidenhout & the Kaktus
of Separate Development: while not steering away from obvious targets, he still radiates
a positive and upbeat belief in South Africa. At a time when the opposite feels like
the collective emotion of many — particularly those of Tannie Evita’s race and privilege
— he chooses to go for the good. Basically, if there is a message I came away from
after watching his show, it is that we fought for democracy, and it is our responsibility
to keep it. It’s no good moaning about things if one is not prepared to be part of
change. And democracy allows us to participate, to be that change.
First and second halves
The first half of the show opens with a Spartan set — a ladder, a shelf — the result
of a bungle with the ANC removal service, it would seem. But Tannie Evita manages
this with aplomb, regaling us with tales from her somewhat risqué past when she was
once man-handled by Donald Trump in a lift, made koeksisters for Jackie Onassis,
and discovered a secret stash in Jacob Zuma’s presidential office. Each tale provides
a platform for swift asides on politicians and personalities ranging from Juju Malema
(of course) to Thabo Mbeki. It’s funny stuff, of course, and very smart.
The second half reveals the now “properly” decorated set, complete with a large canvas
depicting the Battle of Blood River, a piano, and various artefacts including a toy
ox wagon and a pair of clogs. Tannie Evita has refreshed herself with a new frock,
and begins with an impromptu riff with the audience — a master class in thinking
on one’s feet. The rest of the show was a clever re-interpretation of the history
that so many of us were taught in school, starting with Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival
at the Cape. This is when the kaktus of the play’s title make its grand appearance
and, as the narrative moves forward, ultimately is replaced by a more representative
Zippy breath of fresh air
I don’t like it when reviewers repeat the jokes or punchlines of a show they have
seen, specifically if I have not been yet, as it kind of spoils things, so I won’t
do that here. But suffice it to say that there are some very, very hilarious comments,
including an aside about Saartjie Baartman, that had me guffawing. How I wish history
had been like this at school …
It’s a zippy second half, making for a very full programme in all. Pieter-Dirk is
on top form, as always, and his flair for speaking his particular style truth to
power (which involves big hair and false boobs) is a positive breathe of fresh air.
Just one comment, which is not a criticism but an observation – the whole evening
could actually have been split into two different shows, on different nights. Each
half has its own character, and can stand alone as it is. So you kind of get a bonus.
Just sayin’ …
What: Evita Bezuidenhout and the Kaktus of Separate Development
Where and when: Theatre on the Bay, 20 June to 1 July