After diamonds and gold, Pieter-Dirk Uys is South Africa's most successful export. His waspish satirical style translates easily and has made him something of a fixture at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, north London, over the years.
His most famous creation is Mrs Evita Bezuidenhout, habitually described as "South Africa's answer to Dame Edna Everage". Known as "the Godmother of the Nation", she has her own TV show in South Africa. She has jived with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, her picture graced cell-walls in the country's most notorious prison on Robben Island and its most celebrated ex-inmate, Nelson Mandela, put a photo of himself with Evita on his Presidential desk. The wife of a Nationalist MP and Ambassador to the homeland of Bapetikosweti, the "boere diva" is the most famous white woman in South Africa.
In Uys's new show, Live from Boerassic Park, Evita fixes her beady eye on the so-called new dawn in South Africa. Why was absolutely nobody responsible for the apartheid regime? And just how does the new South Africa compare with the old?
Uys also plays a butch nurse whose career prospects are drastically limited by her inability to toyi-toyi and a white schoolboy facing a grim future. Uys's skill has always been to say the unsayable; after all, how many other comedians can truthfully say their material has led to death threats? Even by going on stage wearing a dress during the apartheid era, Uys risked arrest. "If you fight anger with humour," he claims. "You can make a very interesting cocktail."
Politics is like the air in South Africa - nobody exists without it. "Apartheid made everything political," Uys avers. "Sex was political because whites and blacks couldn't do it. Food was political because only whites could eat properly. Politics on its own is dull, and entertainment on its own is irrelevant. My aim was to find an overlap."
Even though apartheid is now dead, Uys's comedy continues to thrive. He has found a goldmine of new material in the growing sense of national disillusion."I was born a political irritation," Uys asserts, "a rash on the bum of South Africa. I'm delighted when I meet people who don't like what I do, because that's democracy."
EYE ON THE NEW
Bob Downe, the swooning Aussie crooner of comic classics such as "Fly Me To the Moon" and "One Note Samba", is playing the New London Theatre, London WC2 (0171-405 0072) on 11, 17, 25 June and 2 July. Dress to impress. Synthetics preferred.Reuse content