Once, a few years ago, I attended the funeral of a family friend, accompanied by my mother.
At that stage in my life, I’d been to about five funerals and I wasn’t quite accustomed to funeral etiquette. So, after one particularly emotive and well-worded obituary, I began clapping. Yes, I clapped. At a funeral.
Anyway, I’m bringing this up because on Wednesday night, I attended Pieter-Dirk Uys’ one-man memoir, “The Echo of a Noise” at the Baxter Theatre.
Surrounded by the likes of Mike Van Graan and Justice Albie Sachs - and, in general, an entire audience of older, better-dressed South Africans - I felt uncomfortable, unfamiliar with how to conduct myself in a theatre.
Now, it's not as if I’ve never been to the theatre before. During my primary school years I remember visiting the Baxter for Rumpelstiltskin and Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat. Between then and now, I have also had the pleasure of performing on the Baxter stage as part of a youth peer counselling group. Despite this, I still felt out of place.
So, when Uys made his way onto stage, I wasn’t sure if I should clap to welcome him in. Or, as I would at a concert or nightclub, scream his name as some form of motivation.
I felt awkward. Even more so because I really wanted some of my slangetjies but the crunching of the plastic packet had already annoyed the man seated next to me.
But then, just a few moments later, Uys did what he has been doing for over 40 years - he broke down barriers.
There I was, one of about five millennials in the audience, yet, Uys spoke straight to me.
Giving us an incredible look into the world of Pieter Dirk-Uys, I found myself relating to so many aspects of this man’s life, this great South African’s journey to now.
Me, a 25-year-old from Grassy Park, connecting with a 71-year-old white Afrikaner from Pinelands. It was both amazing and surreal.
Sitting next to my own father, Uys regaled us with stories of his “Pa”, Hannes Uys. Oom Hannes who always had the answer. And if he didn’t, he’d make it up and they would, as his children, believe him anyway.
Watching Uys relive his youthful infatuation with Sophia Loren reminded me of my own, very many, crushes with celebrities. Uys’ stories reminded me of one in particular, when I had an asthma attack in Woolworths after Danny K kissed me on my cheek and told me “Girls rule” (a reference to my very ill-fitting t-shirt).
Seeing my father - who grew up in Woodstock - nod along with his peers of different races and classes to Uys’ memories of Connie Mulder and Springbok Radio’s “The Creaking Door” reminded me that despite our very real differences as South Africans, there are so many equally, genuine similarities in our stories.
I found myself nodding, agreeing with Uys about the importance of familiarising ourselves with the rule of law - as he had done with his “PR company” the Censor Board - to ensure that no third-rate politician could fool us with their distortion of the law.
That’s what I took away from “The Echo of a Noise” - a feeling of solidarity. That, and a night filled with laughter - and some tears.
And that’s Pieter-Dirk Uys. That’s always been Pieter-Dirk Uys. An artist who has, through the decades, united a very divided South Africa through laughter and, later, introspection.
Certainly, a must-see for anyone interested in South Africa, satire, and a good night out.
*“The Echo of a Noise” is on at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio Theatre until 17 December, running nightly from Tuesday to Saturday at 8:15pm with matinees on Saturdays at 5:15pm. The show on 16 December is at 5:30pm. Tickets available from Computicket or 086 191 58000.