An Audience with Pieter-Dirk Eish!
CAST: Pieter-Dirk Uys
VENUE: Baxter Theatre
UNTIL: November 17
RATING: 4 stars
The name of this show really says it all. It’s an audience with Pieter-Dirk Uys and eish, what a ride.
Uys starts off the evening on a very warm and chatty note, getting to know his audience – this is not the kind of comedy show where the audience is picked on for the laughs. As per usual, Uys reserves his satire for the politicians.
He’s got 15 boxes on the stage and depending on what box the audience members pick, that is the character he gives you.
We are talking more than 30 years of stage shows that Uys can draw on, so it is a vast array, but the wonder is how he manages to string all of it together into a coherent whole by using his own life story to weave it all together.
He never hesitates, companionably drawing the audience into his stories, making us part of his little conspiracy to point out other people behaving badly.
With a few strokes of make-up Uys transforms into un-PC Jewish kugel Noelle Fine, or dons a Madiba shirt and sad little gray wig to become Madiba’s last ex-warder.
Audience comments are woven into the fabric of the show and pathos and sarcasm are dolloped out in equal measure (though never at the audience).
There are sly jokes about contemporary politicians and barbed quips fly thick and fast.
If you watch the local Twitter feed every night you will probably eventually get a glimpse of all the characters as he encourages people to leave their cellphones on “to google” the references they don’t catch.
Those with excellent memories who are familiar with Uys’s work over the years might find some of the patter familiar from previous shows.
Like the one box which gives us a potted version of a scary rhyme about South African presidents of yore, again all strung around Uys’s own political awakening through the years. Like a string of nasty pearls we get these bon mots which would be funny if they weren’t all true. (Then again, another night’s performance may give you five completely unseen characters, it really is a case of pick a box.)
The whole show is like that: funny until you realise he is not really making a joke. Okay, actually he is making a joke because he is trying to get you to laugh at what you don’t take seriously enough.
But, if you really think about it, politics shouldn’t be a joke– it is real life – and Uys tries to draw attention to the realities of South African politics by making it less scary.
For all that he is drawing your attention to the dark underbelly, Uys manages to bring across a hopeful note as well, calling himself “a glass-half-full kind of person” and encouraging the audience to leave with that mentality rather than merely concentrating on all the bad.
It would’ve been easier to slag everyone off and preach doom and gloom, but Uys manages to imbue his performance with a positive message without being corny, which is a hard thing to do, but he does it with his usual aplomb.