ArtSpoken & Reviews

'Hi, I'm Evita, I'm a South African!'

Jennifer de Klerk
05/29/2017 11:18:55

Jennifer de Klerk: For more than 35 years Pieter-Dirk Uys has scrutinised and satirised our society, which is, of course, considerably and constantly changing.

I have seen him in many shows over the years, from his bitingly sharp digs at the National Party and apartheid in the ‘80s and ’90s, when he frequently caught the attention of the security police, to more recent times, when he had to put PW Botha’s pointing finger and Piet Koornhof’s big ears into the back bin and find ways to portray the new elite. He could take off Nelson Mandela’s voice to perfection.

His most noted personsa is, of course, Evita Bezuidenhout or Tannie Evita, hailed widely as South Africa’s First Lady. She has acquired a varied family and a detailed history, including serving as ambassador to the independent homeland of Bapetisosweti, in the days when we had such things, of course.

Even Evita Bezuidenhout, with her stiffly set hair, lavish dresses and huge eyelashes, has had to move with the times and now, she tells us, she makes koeksusters in the kitchens at Luthuli House, after joining the ANC two years ago.

The Kaktus of Separate Development stars Evita, looking older naturally – Pieter-Dirk has turned 80 – putting her own spin on our present, rather peculiar, circumstances. Don’t let third-rate politicians with fourth-rate ideas get you down, she says, tackling head-on the general miasma that overlies our society like volcanic ash.

She’s as sharp and perceptive as ever, tossing out witty asides you wish you could remember, only to have them overlaid by the next. As an Afrikaner, a member of the community which is now the most disadvantaged, she says, she slips in and out of the language, which is often far more flexible and expressive than English. You don’t need to be fluent, but you’ll miss out if you don’t speak any Afrikaans, which would be a pity.

The show falls, deliberately, into two halves. In the first, Evita performs with minimum props as the ANC has failed to deliver on time (appreciative laughter). When I saw the show, they were naturally preoccupied with the NEC meeting. Pieter-Dirk Uys has always been totally up-to-date with the news (and the fake news) and gives his own wry and penetrating analysis. He does not spare the barbs, sticking them into everyone, including Donald Trump (not difficult), everyone except Arch Tutu and Mandela.

Did we ever stop to think, he asks, where we would be today if Mandela had come out of Pollsmoor Prison angry? How many would have died? Instead, we have a second chance, but what are we doing with it?

The second half frames Tannie Evita with everything including a piano – and at last the cactus, a round, spiky ball that has, according to her, haunted South Africa since the days of Jan van Riebeeck. She gives a hilarious and irreverent history lesson which convulsed those of us educated in the old regime, where I was bored to tears by doing Jan van Riebeeck and the Great Trek every year in junior school.

In contrast, my Born Free daughter was all at sea. She had vaguely heard of Jan, didn’t know when he’d landed, had never heard of the French, German and English settlers, knew something about slavery, but had heard of the Voortrekkers and Boer War only from us, her parents. She can, however, tell you all about apartheid. She did history for matric. Thus, is history rewritten by those in ascendancy.

Weaving through the spiky material, which is delivered with an honesty that had the audience gasping, Pieter-Dirk subtly expounds his message. And, yes, there is one. Democracy first. Democracy always, Democracy forever.

Move on, he urges, stop trying to hammer the stubborn square of the past into the round hole of the future. After all, we are all South Africans – except those in the audience who were Zimbabweans. Shame.

The Kaktus of Separate Development with Pieter-Dirk Uys is at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre until June 11, then moves to Cape Town’s Theatre on the Bay from June 20 to July 1

Jennifer de Klerk is editor of
Related Venue:
Montecasino Complex, Fourways Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa