THE QUEEN IS dead. Long live the queen. So begins Pieter-Dirk Uys’s current foray into the shenanigans and hypocrisies that have been the Vaseline of South African political intercourse for the last 40 years, and #HeTwo does the unthinkable. Uys, in his 70s, continues to ratchet up the quality of his work yielding a flawless dollop of South African nostalgia, mixed with uncontrollable laughter at the things that terrify us.
How does he do it? It’s got to do with the liberties that one can take in the liminal role of the proverbial fool: the character who stands outside of society and is able to make observations that reach coolly into the bellies and other soft parts of society’s leadership, and squeeze hard. All the better if she’s an (ostensibly safe) Afrikaans ‘tannie’. Indeed, this work is a paean to arguably Uys’s most famous alter-ego, Evita Bezuidenhout, who made some of the harshest criticisms of the apartheid phalanx heard because they came from her neatly lipsticked mouth.
“Afrikaans men don’t wear dresses!” one of the dignitaries of South African politics once told Bezuidenhout herself, conspiratorially. And it is these men, some of which have been dredged from hell or heaven, with their blunt faux pas and the power of Photoshop, old videos and real experiences that form the basis of this fresh and profound piece of theatre, which should be a must-see for all South Africans, particularly those caught in the messy and slippery entanglement of political correctness.
Uys’s skill as a political jester resounds with the kind of searing rigour that made you shout with laughter in the 1980s, because he was saying the things you thought but were afraid to say yourself, and it is unabated. Like so much of his work, #HeTwo is richly autobiographical and profoundly generous in the slices of political contradiction and horror it dishes up. Uys is a master at the give and take of political nuance, interjecting barbs so bright and sharp that you don’t see them coming, and while you’re laughing with abandon, he brings in something else to make you weep. Watching Uys at work gives you goosebumps. It’s been more than 40 years of fierce and earth-shattering repartee that, rather than pulling punches, perfumes them.
- #HeTwo is written, directed and performed by Pieter-Dirk Uys. It performs until August 18 at the Pieter Toerien Theatre, Montecasino complex in Fourways; and from August 27 until September 14 at Theatre on the Bay, in Cape Town.