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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

FOREIGN AIDS (article first published : 2002-07-14)

Forming a fitting last night to the 2002 National Arts Festival for me was the good choice of Pieter-Dirk Uys’s Foreign Aids where the inimitable satirist appears mainly as himself. Evita Bezuidenhout is nowhere to be seen. The only woman he portrays – and in a very beautiful draped wrap which I envied heartily – was Evita’s equally outrageous sister, Bambi Kellermann.

The performance drew heavily from his show For Fact’s Sake which played the 2000 National Arts Festival and I have included here extracts from my review at the time which are still relevant.

“The department of health should employ Pieter-Dirk Uys on a permanent basis to perform his show at every single school in the country, not to mention theatre, church hall or community centre. With his new show For Fact’s Sake (pronounce it slowly!), he is liable to achieve more in the fight against AIDS among the young of South Africa than 10 Sarafina 2s and all the workshops, talk and literature put together.

“What is it about this man of brilliant logic that allows him to say the most outrageous things and people love him for it? Is he courageous, bloody-minded or driven by a desire to say what needs to be said, whether or not he gets paid for it? I believe it is the latter. He has a big heart and an acutely analytical brain and if he feels strongly enough about a subject, he is driven to do everything in his power – which is considerable - to do what he can.”

“He’s honed his well-known caricature of PW Botha to such an extent that a wagging finger is enough to produce howls of delighted recognition from the audience. “Apartheid is dead but the smell tends to linger,” he says. And while “politics isn’t lethal, it’s just irritating.”

What is lethal, however, is AIDS. Donning surgical hat, gloves, mask and pipe he takes off President Thabo Mbeki’s stance on HIV/AIDS. Other characters are a policeman on desk duty who is more interested in watching Hansiegate than listening to the continual phone calls for help from a woman who is being gang-raped. As in For Fact’s Sake he presents his frank and hilarious account of his first experience at masturbation (“my first one-man show!”).

Back to the 2000 review: “He exhorts every member of the audience to accept the fact that is never too early to instruct children about sex: “I’ve just met a father who was nine years old. The mother was ten - she was obviously into toy boys!”, he quips, but the message comes across loud and clear. Arm children with the necessary knowledge to save their lives as soon as possible.

The subject of condoms is dealt with efficiently and amusingly and he finishes the show with Mandela who maintains that “the struggle is not yet over” and that he finds it sad that he must instruct his grandchildren to “put their love in a plastic bag”.

Pieter-Dirk has performed to 200 schools and reached 400,000 children throughout South Africa. Long may he continue to exercise his brilliant brain to lambaste those responsible for the welfare of South Africa to remove themselves from their political high horse and get in touch with real problems, like the hypocrisy and ignorance surrounding the HIV/AIDS crisis. His programme notes state that he has been “doing what he is doing since the early 1970’s and hopes to keep doing what he plans to do for some time to come. As long as he has the genius of politicians as inspiration, he could be around for ever!” Let’s hope so. – Caroline Smart




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