THE South Africa political and social landscape may have changed dramatically in the past 40 years, but for master satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys there has been one consistency in his stagecraft in all that time.
“People have always been frightened of all kinds of things – but if we can laugh at our fear then perhaps we can make that fear all the less fearful,” he says.
It is what Uys has been doing since 1975 – at the height of political tensions and social injustice in apartheid South Africa with the 1976 Soweto uprising just around the corner.
Holding up a mirror to society and getting people to see all the ironies, hypocrisies and downright nonsense which leaders and others have perpetuated in the pursuit of dubious – and often diabolical – visions.
And make them laugh about it all.
“It’s about turning all the negatives and ugliness into something more hopeful.”
And now Uys – the creator of South Africa’s most famous white woman, Evita Bezuidenhout – is back in Nelson Mandela Bay with Adapt or Fly which opens at the Boardwalk on Monday.
“I started my national tour with the show in Port Elizabeth last year so it’s the city where it had its world premiere.
“But this is now the 2013 version – and of course I have plenty of new material to work with, not least of all, Mangaung and Jacob Zuma’s new wife,” Uys quipped.
It was in 1975 when the one-man stalwart first introduced one of his endearing, legendary characters – the “liberal” (or so she thinks) kugel Nowell Fine – to South African audiences.
In 1981, the Port Elizabeth Opera House was the setting for Uys’s Adapt or Dye – the phrase used by PW Botha (but of course ending with “die”) when he announced his proposed but extremely superficial revisions of apartheid policies as a prelude to a still whites-only general election.
Uys said he had always found Port Elizabeth audiences soaked up his shows – which probably had much to do with the great amount of anti-apartheid activism in the region in the 1980s.
“There was a great deal of political activity during those times and I think that audiences as a result have always been able to tune into the themes I’ve presented to them.”
Uys will be taking his An Audience with Pieter-Dirk Eish! – which he performed in a one-off staging at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown last year – to Durban next month.
In the show he has 15 boxes on stage which are all numbered, containing different skits and characters. The audience gets to pick which one they want to see.
“So it’s just like the old Pick-a-Box – or if you like, pick a d**s!”
At the festival performance last year, the first box picked “contained” the ANC’s service delivery – it was empty.
Adapt or Fly runs at the Boardwalk Amphitheatre from Monday to Wednesday.
Tickets at R100 can be booked through Computicket.