One of the problems with loving theatre and going often is that people always seem so incredulous when one doesn’t recognise a name, a brand. Thus it was that my cousin stared at me in disbelief when I told her I didn’t know about Pieter-Dirk Uys. “You have to see him.” I did. Together with the rest of white South Africa. At The Market Theatre where he performed most of his works in the late seventies and early 80s. I loved his work.
In the mid to late 80s Pieter-Dirk Uys was my next door neighbour while I lived in a commune down Melville. He was a quiet one. I never saw him except at the theatre where I continued to see his work, which I continued to love.
Pieter-Dirk Uys is up in Johannesburg, performing at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre in a work called The Echo of a Noise. I popped in to De La Creme in 7th Street, Melville, to have tea with him. He drinks rooibos, strong and black.
We talked about the work, The Echo of a Noise, briefly and his next work coming up in May even more briefly. It started with the title and grew from there. It is the first time that Pieter-Dirk Uys is up on the stage without the benefit of costumes and props and a character No Evita Bezuidenhout, no Bambi Kellerman, no characters at all. Just Pieter-Dirk Uys with his autobiographical memoir.
The current work’s publicity blurb dubs him “South Africa’s foremost satirist”, a title he has undoubtedly earned. It goes on to say “He leads you into his inner sanctuary, takes you through our history and shows where what is public and private meet.”
I am expecting great things from the work based on the publicity and the reports from the National Arts Festival and Cape Town. With more than seven thousand performances to his credit, he knows his craft, his country, his people. I’m expecting that to meet him as a person.
From the work, which I still had to see when I talked to him, we moved on to chat about the many things that Pieter-Dirk Uys is. Evita Bezuidenhout. The Publications Board. April Fools Day. Brexit. Trump. Optimism. Daylight savings and whether cows would really not know when to give milk if it were implemented. Evita Bezuidenhout’s recipe books which are used in many a household. I told him I wished I could see inside his head to view the pathways and thought processes. He said it was a terrible traffic jam in there. We talked about icons,Sophia Loren (one of his) and Vanessa Redgrave (one of mine). He talks to Sophia regularly – and about her in his latest play. He gives me the title of this discussion “Icons and Aikonas”.
Awards. Yes. Life time achievement awards come because one survives. Pieter-Dirk Uys talks about how good it is to be 71 years old. He talks about his latest award, Best Documentary Feature for Nobody’s Died Laughing at the 2017 SAFTAS. This is a documentary about his life. Directed by Willem Oelofsen it stars Pieter-Dirk Uys, Sophia Loren, Desmond Tutu, Charlize Theron, Janet Suzman, and Jonathan Shapiro.
Evita’s se Perron in Darling where Pieter-Dirk Uys now lives. His Early Development Programme is currently benefitting some seventy young people and their families. Making a differentce. Funded by a Trust, Pieter-Dirk Uys says that he is always seeking funds for this and, like Madiba, will happily approach people and ask for their help in this regard. I’m sure he won’t mind anyone approaching him either.
Pieter-Dirk Uys is one of South Africa’s most visible and outspoken AIDS activists. The work he has done in this regard over the years is one of the greatest legacies he will have made to this country.
Pieter-Dirk Uys tells me he is intolerant of the nonsense that provides him with his scripts. He smiles , not sardonically as I expected, but with a twinkle that reaches his eyes, as we reflect on life. He is as easy to like in life as he is to like on stage. My excitement mounts. I can hardly wait to see The Echo of a Noise.
It runs at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre from Wednesday 22 March 2017 to 9 April 2017.