Pieter-Dirk Uys is the kink in our koeksister. He is the sorghum in our umqombothi beer, and he is as entrenched in our history as a well-soaked rooibos teabag in a tin pot.

I simply can’t do without my dose of giggles from the master of South African political satire. This time around Uys has dusted off some of his characters from his Adapt or Dye performance from 30-years ago. Mrs Evita Bezuidenhout makes a brief appearance, as does Pik Botha, the funny Nowell-I am not a racist – Fine, and of course Madiba. He’s also added the new players on our political stage. The beleaguered ex-ANC youth league leader, the dancing president, and Thabo Mbeki, all get a poke with his sharp tongue.

The show starts with Uys impersonating Adolf Hitler. He wastes no time but straight away points out the similarities between Hitler and our own Julius Malema. It is all very chilling and it sounds like a racy Hollywood thriller as Uys reminds us that we are hanging on to the edge of our continent by our fingernails. “But what lovely manicured nails!” he then softens the blow.  Uys laments, “At the end of the war Hitler at least had the decency to commit suicide, which is more than what you can say of our Apartheid leaders.” Uys reminds us to support Juju since he promises us, ‘The goldmine at the end of the rainbow’.

What follows is a nostalgic trip through the memory lane of our political history and Uys’ own phenomenal career as a performer and activist. Uys lays out the rich tapestry that makes up our colourful country.  That he has always chosen to tackle difficult issues such as racism, HIV/Aids, freedom of speech and human rights, head on, is clear from the sheer volume and bravado of his performances and written work over the last 30 odd years.

Uys is having a field day with the inspiration and material supplied by our hotchpotch of eccentric politicians.  From Helen Zille to Kgalema – blink and you will miss his presidency – Motlantle, they all get a turn to dance center-stage. The recent police chief saga is dragged into the lime-light and I suspect as things develop on the political front over the next month, it will be worked into his performances.

Very funny is Uys’ sketch featuring a converted Piet Koornhof who is now a fierce ANC supporter. ‘Hypocrisy is the vaseline of political intercourse,’ Uys reminds us.  The Pik Botha sketch is funny, and chilling, as Botha ‘categorically’ states, ‘My conscious is clear. I never used it’.

The show is all done in good humour but the underlying seriousness of the topics and the grim transgressions of our politicians are glaringly obvious.  At times some of the material feels a bit dated which is perhaps inevitable given the time-span and the historical context of some of the work. The script feels as if it can do with just a small injection of something totally fresh and new.  However, Uys is still our number on Icon when it comes to political and social satire and his work and words commands respect wherever he performs.

It was PW Botha who gave Uys the title Adapt or Dye all those years ago. And ironically, in 2012 Pieter-Dirk Uys found inspiration by a politician who said, ‘adapt or fly!’ We seem to have come full circle, but as Uys says, ‘As long as we can laugh at our fear, we are still in charge of our future’.


* Tickets are from R100 to R140. Bookings at  www.computicket.com.

Astrid Stark – First published in Cape Times


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