Archived 1998 Articles about  Pieter-Dirk Uys

Comedy: Cooking up a storm

– James Rampton, The Independent, 16 May 1998

Like many white South Africans, Mrs Evita Bezuidenhout initially struggled to come to terms with the post-apartheid landscape. But, ever the pragmatist, she soon found her niche in the brave new world of the Republic. She now tours the world, passing on to the grateful masses the benefits of her political wisdom.

Dubbed "South Africa's Dame Edna", she is the subversive creation of Pieter-Dirk Uys, that country's leading satirist. In her new show, Europeans Only, Evita swans on stage with a black servant to conduct a regal cookery demonstration. "She wants to prove that you can change the world through catering," Uys explains. "After all, she claimed she ended apartheid by giving all sides her sticky pudding, which stuck all their teeth together. Now she wants to take some to Mo Mowlam because once you get Ian Paisley's teeth stuck together, everything will be all right.

"She thinks the way to change politicians' minds is not through their heads, but through their stomachs. She says that they shot Ronald Reagan through the head, and it made no difference."

After the cooking class, Evita intends to visit Tony Blair and tell him: "You're the perfect politician. You take a cherry from everybody's plate, and make your own pudding out of them."

Uys's way of dealing with the absurdities of the apartheid system was to satirise it on stage. But even now that regime has been toppled, he continues to find endless material in that most politicised of countries. "When history repeats itself, it takes tragedy and turns it into farce. In South Africa, we have the sudden irony of white people saying that there is racism against the Afrikaners and that the blacks are marginalising them. I just cry with laughter at that — `excuse me, just listen to what you're saying'. There's political Alzheimer's everywhere. Even with the Irish peace process, everybody now has to see murderers as political leaders."

There is one politician, however, whom Uys finds it very hard to send up: President Nelson Mandela. "When you fall in love with your leader, you're a failed satirist," he laughs. "Nelson Mandela has made up a new alphabet of reconciliation. I'm proud to be part of something where the unthinkable has become policy.

"When apartheid ended, everyone expected another Vukovar, but Mandela's policy has been `love your enemy — it'll ruin his reputation'. He's an extraordinary gift, and the world can learn from everything he does. The wondrous thing about South Africa is that we haven't been shot for what we did. But then, nor were the Tories."

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