“Satire does not apologize”, Pieter -Dirk Uys

Urban Craft magazine’s own Godfrey Johnson (GJ) caught up with South African satirist, playwright and icon, Pieter -Dirk Uys (PDU). B...

Urban Craft magazine’s own Godfrey Johnson (GJ) caught up with South African satirist, playwright and icon, Pieter -Dirk Uys (PDU).
Below is how the deeply enlightening exchange in which we got a ‘behind the scenes’ look at one of the continent’s most celebrated minds went down……….

GJ: “How can you see straight when your imagination is out of focus?” My favourite Mark Twain quote. What keeps your imagination in focus?
PDU: There is no fence around my imagination which allows me many surprises. I imagine conversations, q & a's, arguments and usually expect the worst, hoping it will never be as bad as I imagine. That's also called 'optimism'.

GJ: You are a playwright, satirist, humanitarian, songwriter, film maker, novelist, icon and the list continues. All this seems almost impossible to juggle with equal attention, yet you do. How do you do this?
PDU: I suppose like a pianist who can play Mozart, Bach, Scriabin, Satie and Gershwin. You just don't mix up the styles and the alphabets. It also gives one the chance to work on many projects at the same time. Variation is like mental aerobics.

GJ: Can you name a few of your favourite writers?
PDU: I focus mainly on biographies and autobiographies, knowing that they are usually more fake than fact - but always interesting to see how a life is created and then manipulated to fit the brand. Not much time for fiction, because fact is more creative and news is the bland fiction of the day.

GJ: Of all the great theatre in the world, what play would you chose to go back to as a reminder of how to tell a story?
PDU: I suppose the Bible is the most successful story that has millions of fans. Personally I think it needs major editing. Samuel Becket's 'Waiting for Godot' is a good example of nothing leading to something: the story there is what you fill in between the empty spaces. Noel Coward and Tennessee Williams allow their stories to gush forth like a flood. Shakespeare's plays are always top of the list for many. I admire him from afar.

GJ: You brought your own life onto stage recently in the deeply personal and lyrical show, “The Echo of a Noise”. Is it a challenge not to take the challenge of transforming into other characters?
PDU: On the contrary, ECHO presented me with a new chorusline of characters who demanded dimensions of reality and truth: a father, mother, sister, 'domestic supervisor', movie queen and the multi-phrenic me.

GJ: Does our public discourse risk becoming insensitive with its current heightened sensitivities?
PDU: The current heightened sensitivities are sadly not shared by the masses, but sneakily conjured up in the boardrooms of control. Public discourse becomes channeled along politically-correct furrows of fabricated issues. We have lost the humanity in our opinions. It is now just crammed with fashionable verbal muzak.

GJ: Do you think satire is keeping up with the times?
PDU: Satire is dead. Trump, Brexit, Putin, Malema, Kardashians, religions have all broken the glass ceiling between reality and satire. When democratically-elected governments can use democratically-accepted ways to destroy democracy, what weapons of mass distraction do we have left? Ridicule? Contempt? Hate? There are laws to turn all those emotions into apologies. Satire does not apologize.

GJ: I cannot imagine a South Africa without the voice of Pieter-Dirk Uys. You have touched countless hearts, minds and souls and continue to do so. So many of your words have become part of our vernacular, you are constantly quoted. Is this something you would have ever imagined as a little boy?
PDU: I, for too long, imagined that everyone thought like I did. I was wrong. But one thing did come true: I always knew I would do something different, something unique, something without an easy name or description. I think I'm still trying to explain what it is.

GJ: Who makes you laugh?
PDU: The stupidity of us that has become the accepted code of conduct. And someone slipping on a used condom and breaking a wrist? That's very funny.

GJ: Bambi Kellermann, Evita Bezuidenhout, Ouma Ossewania, the children, the grandchildren, the husbands and the very large chorus of extraordinary characters. Your brain is like a delicious opera. What would you call this opera?
PDU: An Opera called Win-Free? Call it 'Backstage in the Brain'.

Pieter- Dirk Uys’ Upcoming Shows

*News of London season 6 - 25 May at the Soho Theatre.
*Montecasino Toerien Theatre Johannesburg:  July/August: PDU and Evita Bezuidenhout in "#HeTwo" / also at Theatre on the Bay Cape Town August/September

The Evita se Perron channel on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/EvitaSePerron) hosts Evita’s Free Speech, a weekly feature on the state of the nation and the world now beyond its 190th episode.

Pieter-Dirk Uys

Pieter - Dirk Uys was born in Cape Town in 1945 and has been in the theatre since the mid 1960s. Closely associated with both the Space Theatre in Cape Town and Johannesburg's Market Theatre during the 1970s and 1980s, he has written and performed 20 plays and over 30 revues and one man shows throughout South Africa and abroad.

His plays Paradise is Closing Down, Panorama, God's Forgotten, Auditioning Angels, Faces in the Wall and Just Like Home have been performed internationally, and his one man shows Adapt or Dye, One Man One Volt, You ANC Nothing Yet, Truth Omissions, Live from Boerassic Park, Dekaffirnated, Foreign Aids, Evita for President, Elections & Erections, Desperate First Ladies and An Audience with Pieter-Dirk Uys have been presented in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Australia, the) USA and Canada.  His performance of Foreign Aids at La Mama received the Obie Award in New York in 2004.

Pieter-Dirk Uys has been doing this sort of thing for so long that people now refer to it as a career.  Officially unemployed since the early 1970s, he writes, directs, acts, produces and does everything else, including the making of dresses and the wearing of them!  Having survived the mediocrity of apartheid kultuur, it is his therapy and his joy to expose the bones of that dinosaur for the entertainment of democratic audiences worldwide.  He is delighted to still have a government that on a daily basis writes his best material!

Most of Uys’s satirical work was available in South Africa on video (and still is, on DVD) and so, in spite of government censorship during apartheid, he built up a very large multiracial audience.  Members of the present democratic parliament remember seeing his videos while in exile and in prison!  He has been seen on SABC since the late 1970s in a variety of programmes, including An Uys up my Sleeve (1985); One Man One Volt, which was to be screened prior to the 1994 election, but was held back for ten months; You ANC Nothing Yet (1996); and The Great Comedy Trek (2004).  The series Going Down Gorgeous, featuring Nowell Fine in a saga from 1976 to 2004, was screened towards the end of the last century.  Foreign Aids has been broadcast for Aids Day (1 December), and in 2007 SABC2 presented Dinner with the President, a 13-part talk show hosted by Evita Bezuidenhout.  Ten of Uys’s shows are currently available on DVD.

A prolific writer in many genres, Uys’s novel Trekking to Teema was South Africa’s first internet book in 2000, before being published in tree-format.  His second novel, Panorama, was published by Missing Ink in 2013.  He has also written Evita Bezuidenhout’s biography, A Part Hate A Part Love, as well as a book based on his12-part 1994 MNET television series, Funigalore, in which Evita Bezuidenhout interviewed the new democratic government’s leaders, including Nelson Mandela. His (and Evita’s) cookbook, Evita’s Kossie Sikelela (2010), became a bestseller and was followed in 2012 by a second cookbook, Evita’s Bossie Sikelela. Uys has also written two memoirs, Elections and Erections (2003) Between the Devil and the Deep (2005), as well as the ‘autobiography’ of Evita’s younger sister, Bambi Kellermann, Never too Naked (2011).

Pieter Dirk Uys was awarded South Africa's prestigious Truth and Reconciliation Award in 2001. He has received honorary degrees from Rhodes University (D.Litt.Hon. 1997), the University of Cape Town (D.Litt.Hon. 2003), the University of the Western Cape (D.Edu.Hon. 2003), the University of the Witwatersrand (D.Litt.Hon. 2004) and University of Kwazulu Natal (Doctor of Literature honoris causa 2014). As well, Pieter Dirk Uys's celebrated alter ego, Evita Bezuidenhout, proudly received the Living Legacy 2000 Award in San Diego, USA.  In 2011 Uys was honoured with a lifetime achievement Teddy award at the Berlin International Film Festival; in 2012 he received both the FW de Klerk Goodwill Award and the German-Africa Award; and in 2016 received the ACT (Arts & Culture Trust) Theatre Lifetime Achievement Award.

Since 2000 Pieter Dirk Uys has been travelling around South Africa, visiting over 1.5 million school children, as well as prisons and reformatories, with a free AIDS awareness entertainment called For Facts Sake!. He has also released a corporate AIDS information video, Having Sex with Pieter Dirk Uys, as well as the family friendly video, Survival Aids, and Just a Small Prick!, a treatment of the fears surrounding testing for HIV.

Recent successes include F.A.K. Songs and Other Struggle Anthems (2010), a cabaret revue featuring Bambi Kellermann with her Bokkie Band, and 50 Shades of Bambi (2013), both for the Fugard Theatre, Cape Town; extended seasons of Adapt or Fly (2012), An Audience with Pieter-Dirk EISH! (2013), The Echo of a Noise (2016) and Evita Bezuidenhout and the Kaktus of Separate Development (2017) in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town; and a two-week run of An Audience with Pieter-Dirk Uys at London’s Soho Theatre in 2014.
In 2009, Uys directed Macbeki, his first new play since 2003, at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg.  His next play, The Merry Wives of Zuma, was premiered in 2012, and his most recent play, African Times, in 2015.

In 2015, Pieter-Dirk Uys turned 70.  To celebrate, a new collection of his Afrikaans plays, Stukke Teater, was published by Human & Rousseau (for which he received the Herzog Prize for Drama in 2018), and he was chosen as the National Arts Festival’s first Arts Icon, Uys performed three special solo shows during the 2015 festival: A Part Hate A Part Love (featuring Evita Bezuidenhout); Never Too Naked (featuring Bambi Kellermann); and The Echo of a Noise.  In honour of Evita Bezuidenhout’s 80th birthday, Kyknet presented a birthday special, Kyknet vir Tannie, produced by Evita’s former secretary, Bokkie Bam (Lizz Meiring), with greetings from Evita’s far-flung family, and interviews hosted by Coenie de Villiers.

Uys is the subject of two award-winning documentaries. The first, Darling!  The Pieter-Dirk Uys Story (2007) (https://pdudarlingmovie.wordpress.com/), directed by New Zealander Julian Shaw, is about Uys’s Aids-awareness presentations. The second, Nobody’s Died Laughing: A Journey with Pieter-Dirk Uys (2016), directed by Willem Oelofsen, follows the peripatetic Uys for most of 2015. Both DVDs, as well as a wide range of Pieter-Dirk Uys’s books, plays and other DVDs, are sold in Evita’s A and C at the Perron.

Evita se Perron, Pieter-Dirk Uys’s cabaret theatre and restaurant in Darling, where he lives, celebrates its 22nd year in 2018. The venue, which Uys converted from the old Darling railway station, is famous for its satirical garden, Boerassic Park, and is the domain of Evita Bezuidenhout, the 'most famous white woman in South Africa'. The unique museum/nauseum of apartheid artifacts there, reflecting the madness of the past, is arguably the only satirical exhibition of South Africa’s recent past.



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Urban Craft Magazine: “Satire does not apologize”, Pieter -Dirk Uys
“Satire does not apologize”, Pieter -Dirk Uys
Urban Craft Magazine
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