South Africa


Pieter-Dirk Uys documents the black and white years, using humour and irony in a time of upheaval

Pieter-Dirk Uys as his alter ego, Evita Bezuidenhout. (Photo: Hentie van der Merwe)

While some of us spent the pandemic lockdowns baking banana bread, discovering the differences between online video platforms and experimenting with home workouts, Pieter-Dirk Uys took the time to sort through the records of a 40-plus-year career in theatre. By day, by night, and often by candlelight (thanks to Eskom), Uys compiled his latest book – One Man Shows: The black and white years.

In his latest book, One Man Shows: The black and white years, Pieter-Dirk Uys takes the reader on a candid meander through his first seven one-man shows, a journey that spans 13 years between 1981 and 1994.

During a time of political turmoil, censorship and legalised racism, Uys’s satirical revues used humour and irony to show the double standards and immorality that marred South Africa under apartheid.

“I exploit reflections in the cracked mirrors of daily life, entertaining in a minefield. During the 1980s it was like doing the tango in front of a firing squad,” says Uys in his book.

The book includes the text of each show, from Uys’ first one-man show, Adapt or Dye, which opened on April Fool’s Day in 1981, to his 1994 election inspired One Man One Volt, which was performed during the days of South Africa’s transition to democracy.

Along with the scripts, Uys provides the backstories of each production. Through sharing personal anecdotes, political insights and the media reactions from that time, Uys allows the reader to understand the social backdrop against which the shows took place.

The book is brought to life not only by the text, but by a patchwork of photos, posters, newspaper clippings and other sentimental keepsakes from a lifetime in the arts. The faces of many of Uys’ characters – Nowell Fine, Piet Koornhof, and of course, the iconic Evita Bezuidenhout – peer out from the pages.

While the “black and white years” of 1981 to 1994 are behind us, the themes that can be found in Uys’ work – corruption, State Capture, political tensions – still hold relevance in today’s South Africa.

The book is a reminder to look critically at the world around us, and to never underestimate the unconventional power of theatre in a time of societal upheaval.

The link to One Man Shows: The black and white years can be found here. DM


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