Featured An old act in a new age of satire

An old act in a new age of satire

People go to see Pieter-Dirk Uys for the same probable reason they go to see the pyramids and the Parthenon: they have been there a very long time; and everyone else is going. And, like those other venerable ruins, you know what to expect, and you know you are seeing history.

Peter-Dirk Uys revives a familiar old crocodile for his show A Part Hate A Part Love. Photo: CuePix / Jeff Stretton-Bell

Peter-Dirk Uys revives a familiar old crocodile for his show A Part Hate A Part Love. Photo: CuePix / Jeff Stretton-Bell

Uys turns 70 this year, while his alter ego, Evita Bezuidenhout, celebrates her 80th birthday. A Part Hate A Part Love is a biographical reminiscence of a long life spent right in the eye of politics in South Africa, with a large sprawling family of misfits and misbegottens.

But with around six presidents under her belt, so to speak, is it perhaps time that Evita retired gracefully and left the scandalmongering to younger and more energetic satirists? Evita has slightly updated her story, but A Part Hate A Part Love mostly contains material we have seen before. This is great when one wants to take a nostalgic trip through the satire of the bad old days, but it seems a little out of date when there are so many new issues crying out to be explored.

Uys is still a master at taking on multiple personalities, and is able to adopt another persona with what seems to be effortless ease. The voice, the face, the costume, they are all spot on, even if some of the audience might be too young to remember some of the characters and events.

A man in drag who said outrageous things about government mandarins used to be daring and innovative. Part of the joke was that the then men in power played along, little realising that the woman they embraced (in a manner of speaking) was savagely lampooning them at the same time. It is also perhaps a joke that was lost on many audiences.

Evita was never the benign tannie with the koeksisters that many people mistook her for, she was a satirist who managed to tell people to go to hell in a way that made them look forward to the trip.

Evita remains an institution, and Uys has rightly earned a place among the pantheon of satirical greats, but maybe it is time to hang up the wigs and the greasepaint. As they say in showbiz, “You gotta leave ‘em wanting more.”

Nikki Moore
Cue guest writer

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