REVIEW OF THE END IS NAAI at SPIER ARTS SUMMER SEASON — MARCH 2004
PD Uys at his satirical best
– Leigh Robertson, iafrica.com, 23 March 2004
South African satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys may be best known for his beloved drag character
Evita Bezuidenhout, the buxom, big-haired matron with a penchant for politics who,
over the years, has managed to get away with some pretty scathing commentary on cabinet
ministers and other controversial figures, not to mention burning issues like HIV/Aids
and the arms deal. But after a few artful changes under the full glare of the footlights,
he's also a dead ringer for the likes of the country's dreaded apartheid era prime
minister, P.W. Botha (eliciting yelps and catcalls from a hysterical audience) and
reluctant side-kick Pik, Winnie Mandela, Kader Asmal and a host of other political
figures we both love and loathe.
Uys reminds us why he's this country's hottest property both on an artistic and social
awareness level, as while he's up there on the stage flitting from costume to costume
and clearly revelling in the business of showmanship, his feet are firmly planted
on the ground about some pretty serious stuff happening in our midst. And even as
we laugh till we feel we're about to burst at his razor sharp wit and brilliantly
timed lines, it's like he's jammed our heads — and hearts — with a wad of mental
post-it notes. Don't forget the injustices of the past, or the present, and for God's
sake, don't let them be repeated in the future. And he doesn't only make us think
— more importantly, he urges us to act.
Specifically in his latest one-man satire, 'The End Is Naai', the action he urges
us to take is to vote, pertinent since it's election year, with the big date with
the ballot box literally around the corner.
The show premiered at the Spier Arts Summer Season on March 17 to an almost riotously
appreciative audience. A quick scan of the open-air amphitheatre didn't reveal any
attending cabinet ministers or opposition party leaders, which was probably just
as well, though they could well have been lurking in the shadows. In fact, Uys kicked
off his pacy hour-or-so long show with the "surprise, surprise" news that just about
every politician in the country was elsewhere in Africa or attending some or other
convention or opening on far-off shores. It was thus that the capable Evita Bezuidenhout,
once at the helm of the fictional Baphetikosweti homeland in the dark days of the
eighties, had been asked to fill in the role of Acting President.
Of course, it was only fitting that the blousy, outspoken Tannie Evita kicked off
things in her usual charming way, allowing her to get away with just short of actual
murder. Thereafter, Uys took a journey through 10 years of democracy in South Africa,
leaving not a single sacred cow in his wake.
After an entertaining session with "koffie-moffie" Brendan, who took us on a tour
of our president's personal jet, we were presented with the "play within a play",
'Macbeki', featuring the rather un-delightful Three Witch sangomas of Voodoo Princess
Nkozosana Zuma, Amazing Grace Mugabe and Manto the Naked Chef — indeed we got to
gasp at the brazen spectacle of our Minister of Health dripping with a garland of
vegetables and garlic, and menacingly wielding an African potato. Let me not even
mention where this cultural weapon was headed...
But not all his personas were "baddies" — some, like Nelson Mandela and Archbishop
Tutu, he holds in such high esteem you almost want to weep and jump up and yell,
"Viva!", along with him. Some among the audience almost did, but that might have
been because of the wine smuggled into the amphitheatre and the general buoyant mood
of the show.
But Uys is never an ominous voice of gloom and doom, as there's a sense of optimism,
even warmth, that underlines his every critique. 'The End is Naai' leaves you feeling
damn proud to be South African, which probably has a lot to do with having the capacity
to laugh at ourselves even as we prepare for what Uys deems the most important election
of our country's history. See it if you can!