JZ and Grace star for Pieter-Dirk Uys

2009-02-06 00:00

A JACOB Zuma puppet and a none too flattering look at Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, are among the many skits that fans of master satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys can expect when he stages his latest show, Elections and Erections, at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre later this month.

Speaking to me during a fleeting visit to the theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban) on Wednesday, he described the show as “a personal journey through a minefield of fear and fun on the eve of South Africa’s most crucial general election”.

In the play, Uys takes a closer look at the two issues that have defined much of his life — politics and sex — using humour as a weapon to make people think about the country and world they live in.

“We have a first world shop window of democratic principles and a backyard full of nonsense. I’ve got to make fun of the nonsense, but you can’t demean it. It’s serious stuff,” he says.

With the majority of South Africans worried about the world financial crisis and its effects on their day-to-day lives, high levels of crime and corruption and the drama surrounding ANC president Zuma, it seems, on the surface, that we don’t have much to laugh about, but Uys is determined that we can and should find the funny side.

“As a writer, you can’t make this stuff up. I always say, I don’t pay taxes, I pay royalties. Still, it’s a challenge to keep the show entertaining and, yet, make people think. You have to make them laugh or have them say ‘Ag, Evita jy’s fieslik’,” he says, adding that each and every show will be influenced by what happens in the country that day.

He’s also determined to get people voting in the election and says he’ll be using every opportunity to get the message out there in the coming months. “Apathy, mixed with fear, is a lethal combination for democracy. Apathy put South Africa on the track of apartheid in 1948. So, I’m keen to get the message out there that people must vote and that their vote is secret.”

One way he plans to educate voters is through his most famous alter ego, Evita Bezuidenhout, who launched her own political party — Evita’s People’s Party — at an event attended by Helen Zille, leader of the Democratic Alliance, and Patricia de Lille, leader of the Independent Democrats.

Evita will spend 12 minutes every evening fielding questions from the audience and interviewing South African personalities. So, if you need the inside track on who’s who in the political zoo in South Africa, make sure you head to the Sneddon from February 17 to 28.

Asked how he feels about the future of the country, Uys, who is 64 this year, remains incurably optimistic: “There is so much good in SA — I love the sense of humour of the people, the generosity of black South Africans, despite what they and their parents went through, the fact that we still have people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Graça Michel around.”

And it’s his optimism — and of course the shenanigans of the country’s political elite — that inspire him to keep on working. In the coming months, he will be touring the country with Elections and Erections; staging a new play, MacBheki (a farce to be reckoned with), at the Little Theatre in Cape Town and the Market Theatre in Johannesburg; giving Aids education performances in schools; and starting a new book — an Evita biography.

• Tickets for Elections and Erections range from R70-R120 and can be booked through Computicket.

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