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Sunday, March 11, 2012


Brian Roodt adds his comments about Pieter-Dirk Uys’s latest show

“Adapt or Dye” – “Adapt or Fly” – Pieter Dirk Uys is back after a (too)-long absence in Durban and the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

The lights go up on an almost bare stage save for a screen covered in newspaper pages, a cardboard box draped with the old and new SA flags all of which hints at what’s to come.

Uys stands in front of the screen his upper body hidden behind a newspaper. He moves forward lowering the newspaper as he does to reveal Adolf Hitler. So begins an unusual but amusing (is it nervous laughter?) history lesson which chillingly shows history repeating itself.

Hitler, the Third Reich, dictatorship, lebensraum, chosen volk, the banishment of the ‘not-chosen’ to ghettos, genocide.

Skip forward to Uys’s childhood – the son of a ‘mixed’ marriage (conservative Afrikaaner father and European Jewish mother) growing up in the company of the family ‘ooms’ – a progression of NP leaders and their increasingly repressive laws starting with the first apartheid Prime Minister of South Africa, Dr. DF Malan, and onwards, all of whom Uys characterises in his inimitable satiric style made all the more funny by his use of rhyming doggerel to introduce each character.

And they’re all there, the Uys characters we’ve all come to know and love – BJ Vorster; finger-wagging, lip-licking PW, Pik the other Botha and Piet Koornhof who ended up in a mixed marriage of his own. Uys at his lovable best.

It’s after interval and the move into democracy that Uys become a little more unsure of himself and his characters – FW, Madiba, Mothlanthe (fortunately for Uys he wasn’t around for long), Zuma and, of course JuJu who is also referenced in the first half of the show. Uys copes by using characters he’s much more familiar and comfortable with – an aged and the younger Nowell Fine and of course Tannie Evita.

The lesson remains stark. It happened under Hitler, it happened under apartheid, could it be happening yet again as Uys skips forward to the elections of 2014 and the threat of JuJu politics?

Pieter Dirk Uys is moving on but he remains ever relevant. Adapt or Dye shone a light on the horrors of apartheid. Adapt or Fly reminds those of us who were around at the time and serves to shine a light into a dark past for those who were born into democracy. Lest we forget.

Adapt or Fly runs until March 18. Performances nightly at 20h00 (Sundays at 15h00) Tickets R140 through Computicket 0861 915 8000 or at

Young or older, Uys deserves to be seen and heard. – Brian Roodt