South Africa’s greatest satirist, has been very busy lately, launching new books and performing new shows. Pieter-Dirk Uys’ latest show, When in Doubt Say Darling, enjoyed a sold out run at the Fugard Theatre in August this year, creating an unprecedented demand for tickets. Now the show has returned to the same venue by popular demand.
As always, Uys tiptoes through the minefield of political correctness which has become the hallmark of life in the Rainbow Nation. At a time when a casual greeting or embrace can be seen as racist or harassment, his advice is simple: when in doubt say ‘Darling’. If you can’t remember their names, just say ‘Darling’. If you get lost along the road to somewhere, simply ask for Darling. He did it, and now Pieter-Dirk Uys also lives in Darling.
Nobody escapes his acerbic tongue as Pieter-Dirk Uys looks back at 40 years of being on stage. From apartheid to tripartite, from Amandla to Nkandla, the more things change, the more they remain the same. History has a habit of repeating itself, if we are not vigilant. Like Bianca del Rio, he roasts personalities and politicians past and present with equal opportunity. He is however a little more ladylike.
Uys begins by walking on to a darkened stage cluttered with cardboard boxes in which the tools of his trade accumulated over his 40 year career are stored. One by one, he unpacks the boxes to reveal and reincarnate some of the characters he has parodied, from the finger wagging P.W.Botha, his “bread and butter” who supplied him with an endless stream of material, to his most famous creation, Evita Bezuidenhout. Uys is a consummate mimic his impersonation of P.W is spot on and his take on Piet Koornhof is hilarious. The irony is that Koornhof was one of his biggest fans, attending Uys’s performances even though he was often the butt of the jokes. Uys also has Madiba and Jacob Zuma down to a T. He repeats his story about the time he was standing next to Mandela at some reception or other “President Mandela? Every time you see me, I’m dressed as Evita Bezuidenhout!” The reply: “Don’t worry Pieter. I know you’re inside”
His sketch on some famous white women is hilarious: Angel Merkel…Sorry, wrong famous white woman; Theresa May…Sorry, wrong famous white woman: Nowell Fine, ja well no fine but sorry…still the wrong famous white woman; to finally the moment we have all been waiting for: Uys’s onstage transformation into the most famous white woman in Africa, Tannie Evita!
As funny as his impersonations of real personalities are, it is the fictional Mrs Petersen from Bo Kaap who strikes a chord, who is struggling with bureaucracy, technology and gentrification of her neighbourhood. But she responds to these challenges with humour. When a tourist asks her when she arrived in Cape Town she says “Nine months after Jan van Riebeck”. She is intrigued that the Queen of England oversees the “Trouping of the Coloureds” on her birthday. Uys provides us with a poignant vignette of Cape life.
He gives us another view of Cape life when he talks about the West coast village of Darling, where he accidently landed 23 years ago and ended up converting the old station into Evita se Perron, a theatre and museum, as well as founding the Darling Trust whose aim was to uplift the community. His chance arrival had a huge impact on the village. His story about taking a bunch of kids to the cinema for the first time
Is funny and heart-breaking at the same time.
Watching When in Doubt Say Darling is more like being invited into Uys’s vorkammer and having a long conversation with an old friend, remembering the old times whilst dissecting current affairs. Actually, calling a stranger Darling might get you into trouble these days, depending on how you say it. Pieter Dirk Uys has his finger on the pulse as ever. He continues to fight fear with fun. He remains optimistic and he closes by telling us a secret: The sun will also rise tomorrow, Darling.
When in Doubt Say Darling runs until 15th December 2018 at the Fugard Studio Theatre in Cape Town, with performances Tuesday to Friday at 8pm, and Saturday at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets cost from R150 to R170 and booking is through the Fugard Theatre box office on 0214614554 or directly through the Fugard Theatre website on www.thefugard.com.