I watched Pieter-Dirk Uys (PDU) on stage for the first time in the 1984 at the State Theatre in Pretoria, in his one man show Total Onslaught, which followed his wildly successful season of Adapt or Dye at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, and I was enthralled.
Aside from literally rolling in the aisles in response to his vicious lampooning of the apartheid regime, I was impressed beyond measure by his courage in bearding the apartheid lion in its very den, Pretoria, the administrative capital of the country.
Vilified as a traitor to his own kind, he embarrassed the mandarins of apartheid for years, refusing to be silenced, using his sharp wit as a powerful weapon against apartheid.
Over the years I’ve seen many of his shows, including Adapt or Dye (his original one-man show in which we got to know and love his alter ego Evita Bezuidenhout), Tannie Evita Praat Kaktus, Dekaffirnated, and most recently, The Echo of a Noise, his personal memoir, in which we come face to face, for the very first time, with Pieter-Dirk Uys the man.
We are so accustomed to seeing not PDU, but the character – Evita Bezuidenhout, Johannesburg Kugel Noelle Fine – or the caricature – PW Botha, Piet Koornhof, Maggie Thatcher, that it is easy to forget that behind the mask is a man who has elevated satire to a veritable art form, and in the process endeared himself to thousands of people, locally and internationally.
The Echo of a Noise takes us from his childhood home in Pinelands, through the awakening of his love for theatre and the performing arts, his relationship with his beloved mother, Helga, and the agony of her suicide, his conflicted relationship with despotic father, Hannes, and his death, and the enduring friendship with Sannie, the coloured housekeeper who managed the Uys household for decades.
Seated on a barstool dead centre on an unadorned stage, sporting a black beanie, black pants, black shoes and a black hoody bearing the legend “Almost famous…” this most famous son of South Africa, takes you on an intensely personal journey.
You laugh and cry, rejoice and mourn with him, as his remarkable life unfolds before your very eyes, for it his remarkable de-scriptive capacity that paints the rich pictures that absorb you so completely.
For the first time ever, you will see the real PDU, stripped bare of the many personas he has portrayed over the years, vulnerable, intensely honest, and utterly absorbing for the 90 minutes of the show, during which he holds the audience in the palm of his hand.
If it is his intention to speak personally to each and every member of the audience – and I suspect that it is – he has succeeded magnificently. If you’re a Pieter-Dirk Uys fan, and you want to get to know the man behind the mask, then this is a show not to be missed.
Aside from The Echo of a Noise, PDU will also perform Adapt or Fly Episode 2016, and An Evening with Evita Bezuidenhout at The Playhouse Theatre, Lourensford Road, Somerset West.
All tickets are R120 from Computicket. The show dates and times are as follows: The Echo of a Noise – Thursday July 7, at 8pm, Saturday July 9, at 2.30pm; Adapt or Fly Episode 2016 – Friday July 8, at 8pm; An Evening with Evita Bezuidenhout – Tuesday July 5 and Wednesday July 6, at 8pm, and Saturday July 9, at 6.30pm.