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Sell-by Date

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'Not retire. Retread': SA icon Pieter-Dirk Uys is back with a new one-person show, Sell-By Date

Pieter-Dirk Uys is back in Johannesburg with a new show, Sell-By Date. As expected from his one-person performances, the show features not only PDU, but also a cluster of topical characters, male, female and political. Being active in live theatre since the late 1960s, Uys is not surprised when people now ask: "When will you retire?" His answer is short and sweet: "Not retire. Retread!"

– Thelma Mort, News24, 31 August 2023

SHOW: Sell-By Date

I went to the second night of Pieter-Dirk Uys' satire Sell-By Date, full of expectations. The title of the show was concerning: was this South African icon, who immortalised the character Evita, who generated a new theatre reality with Evita se Perron, who has charmed audiences for decades, and is a world-renown actor, saying that he has reached his sell-by date? But this was not the case. Sell-by Date is about some of his best-loved characters, based on real-life people: PW Botha, Desmond Tutu, Madiba, Jimmy the bergie, Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout, and others.

The show is physically arranged around a table, two chairs, and bags of costumes, wigs, hats and props, giving it domestic homeliness. The narrative is that he is collecting things to give to the SPCA. From this bag of props, he dresses himself and brings to life the familiar characters, talking to the audience about their origins and the political landscape at the time. When he is finished with a character, he discards the costume he has just worn into the "SPCA box".

He slips easily between characters, and the show is testimony to his great facility as an actor — changing outfits, changing facial expressions, changing accents, and putting on his make-up on stage, thus really giving the audience an insight into how he develops his characters physically and in the historical context.

The show's title relates to Uys musing, as he does throughout the show, about politics, ethics, and the state of the nation, and questioning South Africa's democracy: Has it reached its sell-by date? Uys' humour is clever, gentle, cheeky, and always pertinent. He is curious, witty, razor-sharp, and courageous; at one point in the show, musing about politics and corruption, he refers to the government as "the best that money can buy".

He also muses about growing old; he is 77 and has just had a knee replacement operation. He intertwines the story of his ageing and what that entails into the show, into the story of theatre in South Africa, making himself vulnerable before the audience. This gives the show an intimacy.

While one has grown accustomed to Uys' characters, and his own self is the unseen shadow, in this show, one meets the characters as the shadow and meets the real Uys.

Quite early on, he asks the audience: "May I have permission to play myself, a gay 77-year-old white man?"

Uys has been in theatre for over five decades, and his characters have developed through the darkest days of apartheid, and through the early heady days of South Africa's democracy, and through the Mbeki, Zuma and current dispensation.

He is in a unique position to offer the audience an insight into the historical and political periods of South Africa, and this the show does, reminding us of the times when homosexuality was banned and when hundreds of thousands of HIV-positive people were denied treatment during the Mbeki years.

This is a courageous show and one which will leave the audience loving Pieter-Dirk Uys even more.


Venue: Pieter Toerien's Montecasino Theatre, Johannesburg

Dates: 24 August - 10 September

Ticket prices: R150 - R250 via webtickets



Wrinkles, come with mirth!

– Robyn Sassen, My View, 28 August 2023

HOW DO YOU look back on close to six decades of incredulity at the caveats and bouquets of humour so off the wall that only politicians could have written them? Pieter-Dirk Uys’s latest theatre production, Sell-By Date, which performs at Montecasino until 10 September looks at a lifetime of taking the piss, and the vagaries of doing it from within an ageing body. With or without grace.

It’s a show that will move you to tears for multiple reasons. This is our jester who gave us the narratives of his rich and detailed life as he granted us the power to laugh at the things that terrify us the most. His barbs against the idiocy that headlines our society now are no less poisonous and sharp than they were during apartheid, but speaking from a place of the authority that age affords, he can again look with a grin of disbelief at the madness of a woke era in which the very fabric of drag is frowned on, by the youth.

From knees that need replacement to the memory which can trip and fail, Uys takes on the caprices of being alive in an ageing body with a mix of candour, humour and the cringeworthy. Like the work of Peter Terry which is as much about brokenness in body and courage in spirit and that of the late dancer-choreographer David Toole who gloriously celebrated a body with difference, for instance, the work is irreverent and beautiful in its reflection on the taboos and don’ts of the world in which we live.

And as the poster promises, there is a scattering of your favourite Uys characters, with a kernel of heart and a bit of a social hand grenade in each one. Jimmy, the ‘Bergie’ has been a witness to so much for so long. He conducts traffic in his spare time during loadshedding, without legal liability, and with his beanie drawn below his eyebrows, he laughs at the way in which our politically correct youth frown upon him.

Nowell Fine, the activist Jewish woman who Uys invented even before he brought Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout into the world is sadly, not the firebrand she once was. Given the docility of South African Jewry, Nowell’s political feistiness in the world is of a previous generation. And stereotypes aside, the real Nowell would probably have skedaddled to happier shores, by now.

Uys’s facial gymnastics are another delicious highlight to the work. With a snarl and a pointed finger, he is PW Botha. And with hands held in a particular way, he becomes Archbishop Desmond Tutu, sans the purple dress or wig.  Just pure skill.

And then, there is Evita herself. The jewel in Uys’s crown in so many ways — the Afrikaans-speaking lady unequivocally celebrated as the most famous white woman in South Africa, respected (mostly) back in the day by everyone from the apartheid government, to Nelson Mandela himself. With hairdos cropped sensibly and tapered down to suit the age and the fashions for women in their seventies, both Nowell and Evita are a little tired around the edges, but have aged with grace and dignity.

Like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Uys bargains a tad with God. The world is shifting and swaying in such peculiar ways; all he needs is another three years to imbibe what happens next.

The show is bracingly honest, bitingly critical and one in which you leave with a heart full of love for a performer who had the courage to take on South Africa’s insanity and show it to all of us. In the mirror. It’s a show premised by a plastic box in which all the costumes are deposited, after he’s used them, for repurposing and for sale to the benefit of the SPCA.

Sell by date is written, directed and performed by Pieter-Dirk Uys, at the Pieter Toerien Theatre, Montecasino complex in Fourways until 10 September. Tickets through webtickets.



Pieter-Dirk Uys keeps the ‘mock’ in ‘democracy’ in his one-man show

– Nicki Gules, Times Live, 25 August 2023

It was the early 1990s when Evita Bezuidenhout came onto an SABC radio station for an interview in which she said the National Party government was “the best government money can buy”.

That barb, made more gasp-worthy by being directed against a fearsome security establishment on the state broadcaster, has made another appearance. This time it is used to describe the ANC government in Pieter-Dirk Uys’ new one-man show Sell-by Date at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre in Johannesburg until September 10.

While that particular barb may have lost some of its sting thanks to our freedom to say far worse things of our leaders, Uys still brings the political heat to this production.

Sell-by Date is up-to-the-minute political satire. The Brics conference had barely closed when Uys, in character as homeless Capetonian Jimmy, gave it a thorough roasting for the bloc opening its arms to countries guilty of human rights abuses such as Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Even the security guards on the streets of Sandton came in for a ribbing.

“Who are those people in uniform? They’re so thin,” he said. “It’s probably the Wagner people because they have no boss anymore.”

As we have come to expect, Uys roasts our politicians, calling ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula the “transport minister who killed all the trains” and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma the “doek diva”.

But his real target in this show are arguably the politically correct who take issue with him, a 77-year-old white man, playing characters of a coloured man (Jimmy), and women (Evita Bezuidenhout and Nowell Fine). His aim, he tells us from the stage, is to keep the “mock in democracy and highlight the con in reconciliation”. He is an actor playing characters, he says. Nothing more, nothing less.

He relates how he has been asked why he continues to perform as Tannie Evita, who according to the woke he should not impersonate because he is a man. He responds by saying that she wouldn’t exist if he had not created her. Tongue firmly in cheek, he asks the audience to kindly give a 77-year-old white man permission to play a 77-year-old white man.

In Sell-by Date, Uys deliberately provokes with humour that sails close to the edge. Some jokes, like one about BEE, drew horrified gasps from some younger audience members and roars of laughter from others. It is a fine line to tread and much is at stake, not least a legacy as a moral voice and sharp-eyed social commentator forged over decades which he would not want to see lost by being “cancelled”.

Decades after he debuted characters such as Nowell Fine, Uys gives them a new outing and they have new things to say about the times we in which we now live. Tannie Evita, who he refers to as a “trans tannie”, has a new look and a new wig to replace the Boere bouffant of old.

He also trots out real-life characters from past shows — PW Botha, Jacob Zuma and Archbishop Desmond Tutu — and has the audience guffawing at how well he impersonates them.

Sell-by Date has much to recommend it. Just leave your political sensitivities at the door.



Review: Pieter-Dirk Uys Returns with “Sell-By Date”

Experience the theatrical brilliance of Pieter-Dirk Uys’s “Sell-By Date”, where humour meets political insight and societal reflection. Witness Uys’s captivating charm and wit firsthand. A must-see for all theatre fans.

– Shaun Zietsman, The Something Guy, 25 August 2023

The theatre lights dim, the audience hushes, and an air of anticipation fills the room. Instead of the traditional curtain rise, Pieter-Dirk Uys makes a grand entrance from the side of the stage, immediately capturing the attention of every individual present. His presence at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre, marking his return to Johannesburg from 24 August to 10 September with his new show, “Sell-By Date”, is nothing short of magnetic.

Having been an ardent admirer of Uys’s work, it was a dream come true to witness him perform live. The experience was surreal, and Uys’s performance was beyond expectations. From the moment he walked onto the stage, he exuded an energy that was both captivating and infectious.

Uys, now 77, has been a stalwart in live theatre since the late 1960s. His longevity in the industry is a testament to his unparalleled talent and ability to evolve with the times. In “Sell-By Date”, he addresses the inevitable question of retirement, which he often faces due to his age. But in true Uys fashion, he retorts with wit, saying he doesn’t plan to “retire” but rather “retread”.

The show is a brilliant amalgamation of humour, political insight, and societal reflection. Uys’s ability to blend these elements seamlessly is what sets him apart as a master storyteller. The narrative of his recent knee transplant and the challenges he faced during recovery, such as stumbling on stage, added a personal touch to the performance, making it all the more relatable.

One of the highlights of the show was the appearance of beloved character Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout, who, along with a host of other characters, provided a delightful mix of comedy and commentary. It’s no wonder that the late Tata Madiba enjoyed koeksisters with Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout — her charm is truly irresistible.

Beyond the laughter and entertainment, “Sell-By Date” delves deep into the societal context of the pandemic and its impact on people’s lives. Uys also poses a thought-provoking question: Has South Africa’s democracy reached its sell-by date? Through his performance, he encourages the audience to confront their fears and reflect on the political landscape of South Africa.

Uys believes in the power of laughter as a tool to address fear and engage in meaningful discussions about pressing societal issues. This belief resonates throughout the show, making it not just a theatrical performance but a platform for dialogue and reflection.

“Sell-By Date” is a masterclass in storytelling. Uys’s unparalleled ability to weave humour, personal anecdotes, and political commentary into a cohesive narrative is truly commendable. It’s highly recommended to see this show and experience the magic of Pieter-Dirk Uys in person. It’s not just a performance; it’s an experience that will leave you both entertained and enlightened.



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