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EVITA FOR PRESIDENT (article first published : 2007-05-31)

With the aid of Pieter-Dirk Uys, Evita Bezuidenhout is on a nationwide campaign touting her credentials for being the next President of South Africa. Her nationwide tour has touched down in KwaZulu-Natal and she can currently be seen at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

A white Afrikaans man in a dress for President, you laugh? Well, laugh you might, but – hey – would it be such a bad idea? Arguably no-one is more passionate about the country; no-one has a better command of who’s who, and certainly no-one is more fearlessly vocal in putting her money where her mouth is.

This passion for South Africa and its people started way back in time but it was in 1999 when Pieter-Dirk Uys (Evita Bezuidenhout’s alter ego) became aware that people of colour were diffident about voting in South Africa’s first democratic elections. He said to them: “You’re mad – this is your chance to vote, to have your say in the running of the country – what else have you been fighting for, for so long?”

This diffidence affected him much that he created Evita’s Ballot Bus and launched forth around the country in a voting edutainment programme. He visited towns major and minor (performing in Richmond shortly after the massacre) as well as townships large and small in a gruelling schedule of two performances a day over a six-week period. In certain depressed areas, he often received the response: “Why is a white man in a dress coming to tell us about voting when our own politicians haven’t come near us?”

But that’s Pieter-Dirk Uys. If he feels strongly about something and can solve it/make it better/publicise it, he’ll find a way of contributing his considerable energies. The list is endless but it includes helping a talented young girl with AIDS by selling tiny beaded pins at his shows or encouraging the residents of an old age home opposite Evita se Peron to revive their cooking skills and provide refreshments for his well-known theatre venue situated in Darling in the Cape.

Evita for President features an impressive double lifesize poster devised by Brett Bailey depicting Evita in a superb evening gown designed by Chris Levin against a backdrop of Cape Dutch gables and a rolling flower-strewn landscape. Next to her is the famous cactus which breezed into Parliament with Evita during the time when she was presenting Evita Praat Kaktus. There’s also the purple-coloured chicken which appears in the show itself, although it has to be taped to the floor because it keeps falling over due to having imbibed too much beetroot wine, courtesy of the former Minister of Health!

Pieter-Dirk Uys starts the show as a shuffling figure in a nondescript black outfit plus cap, carrying a bucket of water. Before the audience can grasp what’s afoot (pun intended!) he proceeds to recreate a highly publicised act of contrition by a former well-known apartheid government figure.

Then we are reunited with Pik Botha, an old-favourite of Pieter’s, now sporting ANC colours but still with the hunched back and lifting heels still claiming ignorance of vital information.

Aziz Pahad is next in the spotlight followed by a highly well-spoken Mrs Indira Patel who has relocated back to SA from London but still knows how to swing a bribe. From the Cape Flats comes the delightful vendor of the Big Issue newspaper who has the most delicious punch-line of the evening. Another one to have her say is Cape Town junk shop owner Mrs Peterson whose husband is out of work because he’s not black enough whereas in the former government he wasn’t white enough!

She’s followed by Kader Asmal who, with white moustache and dangling cigarette, is one of Pieter-Dirk’s Uys’s most successful characterisations to date. Then we’re reunited with an old friend – Noelle “Wake me when it’s over!” Fine. Her maid Dora has now left her and she’s stuck with Asiatic domestic help with unpronounceable names. While putting on full make-up, Noelle chatters away blithely about sorting out the world’s starvation problem and then announces that she’s ready for bed! She is, of course, the means by which Pieter gets to become Evita without leaving the stage for barely a minute.

Throughout all this, a puppet figure of President Thabo Mbeki watches with glassy-eyed stare and the chicken manages to stay upright! There’s even a recorded message of support from Archbishop Desmond Tutu!

After her varied troupe of “curtain-raisers”, Evita swans in wearing a glamorous outfit designed by Francois Vedemme and proceeds to explain to the audience why she’s such a good choice for President. She even tries a bit of ventriloquism as she “chats” with the puppet, although this is probably the most incongruous part of the show.

Evita for President runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from May 28 to June 10. Booking is at Computicket. You couldn’t wish for better or more enlightening entertainment. Evita’s got my vote! – Caroline Smart




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