Pieter-Dirk Uys’ show #HeTwo was on stage at Montecasino and Theatre on the Bay in August and September. Tannie EVITA and Pieter-Dirk Uys on stage together at the same time! Billed as “Essentially a tribute to Evita Bezuidenhout and very little about the man behind the woman!”
In case you missed the show, the press release about the show is almost as entertaining, and it came in question and answer format:
What motivated #HeTwo? The #MeToo movement has been a great motivator, because it is time that women are heard, seen and respected as equals, and in many ways, unique leaders of society. I though about a #HeToo because it is also men and boys who suffer the indignity of harassments and innuendo. Then, as with my 1981 revue Adapt or Dye, I had taken PW Botha’s ‘adapt or die’ and with a change in spelling created a new platform. Therefore #HeTwo – the two being me and my shadow, Mrs B.
Political correctness has always been your bête-noir. Can we say that word aloud still? Apartheid was politically correct and for most of my life fighting the injustices, which meant that I was politically-incorrect and often punished as a result. To now suddenly wear the halo of political correctness in a democracy? For me it just doesn’t make sense. Politics is NEVER correct; it is a adaptation of panic, illogicality, truth, lies, fear and futility. If the fact that I impersonate people/characters on stage – people who are not white – and ‘do’ superstars like Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Jacob Zuma, and Desmond Tutu, is it being seen as politically-incorrect and racist? Toughies. It’s been my job as an entertainer for 40 years. I have impersonated them all: black, white, brown, male, female and convertible.
What do you want the audience to leave the theatre with? Maybe I’m a failed satirist, because satirists take no prisoners. I must find some compassion with the targets I dismember, because, as during the white Afrikaner leadership of apartheid, there by the grace of a giggle go I. I am a terminal optimist, having been in the theatre for over 40 years and Theatre does not tolerate the negative. You just got to believe that a crazy idea of a 1848 street revolt in Paris with an unpronouncable title would end up as Les Miserables that earned over $3 billion so far.
How much of your time do you spend on her? People think I sleep in Evita’s nightie! Now I spend about 2% of my time with the character: mainly dieting for this woman who doesn’t exist. Sound crazy, but it’s what the people see that makes the character work. Evita has been with me for so long that she has enough information and opinions to fill 4 hours without taking a breath. Her clothes are important. If I take her off-stage, the shoes must be expensive and new, or all women walk away disgusted. No dirty nails! And focus her speech on the issues of the day, not as a politician, but as a gogo of three black grandchildren, a member of the ANC, a citizen and a designer-democrat.
And racism? That’s a big wake-up call at every performance. My pet hate is racism, that evilly fabricated weapon of mass destruction. The only race I acknowledge is the human race. And yet especially today in our 25 year old democracy, racism is being used as a tool of fear, a way to blame, a ploy to end an argument before it started; to divide and rule. Yes, it’s okay for populist Malema racism, but not okay for dying silly old Penny Sparrow. And yet in order to expose racism, you must show it. K-words sometimes must be used. Not a comfortable decision which depends also on the issue at hand. I hate doing it.
How come you are in the theatre since 1964? I went to UCT to become a teacher and then the theatre highjacked me. After four years at Drama School, it was life imprisonment without trial. So now I suppose I know nothing about anything, and everything about something.
What’s the difference in your work now that you’re over 70+? I hope the disease to please is cured. For too long I worried about what people would think. I would cut my foot to fit the public shoe, but no longer. I don’t need to explain or apologize. If people don’t like it, get Netflix and have a good time there too. At 73, it’s easier to say to the grumpies: Gaan kak.
Who is your audience? Anyone who will give me the 4 hours of their time to come to where I’m performing. They have to set their burglar alarms, feed the Rottweilers, load the gun, reverse their four-by-fours out of the garage hoping the burglars don’t slip in, risk their life in the City traffic which turns them into racists within 20 seconds. They find the theatre, park their car, kiss the car goodbye, get their tickets and sit and wait for me. And then it’s up to me to give them a life-changing experience, which means they will come back over and over again, because they want more of this thing called theatre, because it is LIVE.
Are you careful not to offend your audiences? I am careful not to insult patrons who can’t hit back. Demeaning people is cheap and nasty. Making fun of those mentally or physically disabled is not my style. But to offend people? Great! Shows I’ve rattled their cage of opinion, usually about politics. So let them be offended and ask themselves: why does he think that and I think this? Changes of attitude and thought could be in the offing.
We asked PDU a few additional questions:
1. Should we regard the show #HeTwo as the swansong of Evita Bezuidenhout on stage? If so, what plans does PDU have for the future? PDU: I always feel every performance is the first and the last, because each time it is different with that audience of the moment. Basically it's about them. If I go onto a stage and the cat and mouse are the only ones to clap, I will know when to stop. And even if I stopped performing Evita, she will always be there in someone's mind. At present her reality show on You Tube and Daily Maverick - Evita's Free Speech - every Sunday / Monday keeps her in the mind of millions. We are now on Episode 209.
2. Was there any relevance in the playing of a Beethoven symphony while the audience waited for the show to start? PDU: That beautiful movement from Beethoven's Seventh Symphony must set the scene to balance the picture on screen of Evita - and the date of birth and death. I want people to wonder: is this a wake? Is she dead? But then I start the show by asking: how can you kill someone who doesn't exist? And then again, if Evita doesn't exist, it doesn't mean she's not real. And that's the point of the next 90 minutes: seeing her on screen with world's leaders and superstars who all treat her like a lady.
3. I don't recall seeing you stating categorically on stage before that you are gay and proud to be so. Am I wrong in this? Was there reticence before to make such a statement? PDU: I have never really regarded being gay as a headline in my CV. It's part of my job description: Pieter-Dirk Uys; white, African, Jewish, gay, overweight, 73, loves Sophia Loren and cats. But during those dark apartheid days the last thing I/we could risk was to come out as gay - just to be put back in either a coffin or a cell. So then I used Evita and her family to reflect those fears and prejudices that we all recognized and had to laugh at because, fuck 'em! Yes, we did! And we're still here!
4. I loved the punch line at the end, quoting the fabulous Bette Midler, "Fuck them if they can't take a joke!" As is characteristic of your shows, it contained many messages, some serious ones disguised in humour. Can you state succinctly what the most important message, or messages in #HeTwo are for South Africa today. PDU: Humour for me is my weapon of mass distraction. You don't expect to laugh at things you don't even want to think about. The bottom line has to be entertainment, but if I can rattle the cage of opinion with laughter, it might change minds. I also use the word moffie on stage because I am a moffie no one will take that word away from me through political correctness. The 'message' in #HeTwo is to celebrate where we are after 25 years of the good, having survived 366 years of the bad. Politics today is using fear to paralyse us all. Look in the mirror and recognize yourself as the first person to lead by example. And get out there and with your list of what's important and good. Politics is seldom in the first thirty entries.
And here is a question for Evita:
5. Has Madiba's legacy been sodomised by subsequent (ANC) administrations? PDU: Sorry, she had to look up the word 'sodomised' and fainted. So all I can say on her behalf is: as a member of the ANC (which she is to protect democracy for future generations) it means she cannot comment on any ANC policy because as a cadre/comrade, she is not allowed opinions. But as a citizen and gogo she can only hope that if the people lead, the government will have to follow.
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