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Sunday, July 3, 2016


(Reviews from the artSMart team currently in Grahamstown at the 2016 National Arts Festival)

(Pieter-Dirk Uys)

Uys is a smash hit! (Review by Verne Rowin Munsamy)

What is it about Pieter Dirk Uys that has audiences running to the theatre?
It’s his witty charm, elegant stage presence and sophisticated ability to simply tell a captivating story.

The Victoria Theatre in Grahamstown, once again played host to one of South Africa’s greatest theatre exports, Pieter Dirk Uys who at 70 has performed over 7,000 solo performances in his career and returns with his theatre marvel, The Echo of a Noise.

I remember meeting him in this very same venue, many moons ago, after the premier of Auditioning Angels, where he writes about the rescue of HIVAIDS infected orphan babies in a hospital,and was humbled by his kind spirit and his writing which pleaded to a generation for action, or as he so perfectly puts it, point fingers at the system’s flaws.

In this memoir, The Echo of Silence, he transports the audience to his childhood at number 10 Homestead  Way, Pinelands, Cape Town.He jokingly wears all black (a colour usually worn by the stage hand) with the words ‘almost famous’ printed on it. A spotlight and a bar chair are all that is needed on stage as he boastfully fills the space and our hearts with tales of his youth; his conflicted relationship with his father (their political disparities and his love and admiration for him), his love for and pen-pal relationship with Sophia Loren (which helped him through the suicide of his bipolar mother), his extraordinary relationship with Sunny (the live -in domestic worker and daytime ‘boss’), the sounds of the trains passing, the revelation that his mother escaped the persecution of Jewish people by Hitler (and that he himself was half-Jewish), his rebellious nature which hid a portable radio in his bed to listen to his favourite radio dramas, the touchy ‘uncle Andre’,and the political undercurrent of the time.

All of which shaped and manifested this ‘noise’ that he became against an unjust apartheid government.

He jests that the best advice given to him by his dad was not to point and poke with his finger, referring to his swearing against the apartheid system, but rather to use that same finger to tickle behind the ear and then wait for the head to turn and poke their own eye.

If you are familiar with his plays like Adapt or Dye, Beyond the Rubicon and Total Onslaught, you will realise that these sentiments ring true in all of his writing.The second piece of advice that he shares is that we must fill our drawers (something he mentions all the way through) with important documents and memories, and make your lists (of things to achieve). And like the melodic, soothing symphonies of Bach, this gentle (theatre) giant is able to unearth the compassion and passion in the audience to extraordinary effect.

Although best known for his interrogation, through his numerous characters and plays, of an unjust system, we are not left disappointed by his interrogation of his own, personal politics, as seen in The Echo of a Noise. A well deserved standing ovation. - Verne Rowin Munsamy

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