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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 mind.

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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 — patriotic.  

 

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 loons.

 

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

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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.

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Stage: Tannie Evita review

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 power blocs.

 

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 cell!

 

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 model.

 

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

 

Book: Computicket

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