The well-lived life of a boy at 71

I have fi­nally found the courage to get out from be­hind the masks and tell the story be­hind the sto­ries, writes Pi­eter-Dirk Uys

CityPress - - Voices -

The Echo of a Noise is the story of a life well lived – a boy from Pinelands who grew up in a frac­tured so­ci­ety but was blessed with par­ents who brought mu­sic and love into the fam­ily. A boy who was stricken by the disease to please from an early age, over­shad­owed by church, school and a very strict fa­ther, and yet find­ing in­spi­ra­tion and ex­cite­ment through his fan­tasies and imag­i­na­tion.

The top­ics in the story will be shared by most of the au­di­ence: fa­ther, mother, sis­ter, cat, swap­ping comics, see­ing movies, Mozart, Sophia, some­thing called sex, some­thing named death, some­thing re­mem­bered as love, laugh­ter and maybe a tear – but through­out all the fa­mil­iar noises of life that even­tu­ally cre­ate a sym­phony of cel­e­bra­tion.

I have never had the courage to come out from be­hind the masks and fa­cades of the many char­ac­ters I have per­formed on stage more than 7 000 times. They were mainly there to fo­cus on po­lit­i­cal mad­ness and mirth.

This is the first time I tell the story be­hind the sto­ries. Maybe turn­ing 71 has given me the thumbs up to share the se­crets and let the cat out of the bag.

I think the re­stric­tions I was faced with as a writer and per­former, es­pe­cially dur­ing the Na­tional Party years, helped me to cre­ate pos­si­bil­i­ties of con­fronting them through unexplored av­enues – in my case, us­ing hu­mour as a weapon of mass dis­trac­tion.

To laugh at fear could help make that fear less fear­ful and, let’s face it, our lives in South Africa dur­ing the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were shaped by fears. Laugh­ter was a re­lief. It still is. And Evita Bezuiden­hout was just one of those char­ac­ters who even­tu­ally stepped out of the satir­i­cal clus­ter and be­came the most fa­mous white woman in South Africa – then and now.

Of course, re­ac­tions to my work have changed over the years. I ex­pect my au­di­ence to change re­ac­tions from per­for­mance to per­for­mance be­cause the ma­te­rial is based on the news of the day and, of­ten, the prej­u­dices we all have to face when con­fronted with so many choices, es­pe­cially in this democ­racy that con­stantly de­mands change of mind and opin­ion.

The­atre is live; news is live – yet en­ter­tain­ment de­mands more than just head­lines. My char­ac­ters have to be fa­mil­iar and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the many ar­eas of con­flict. I try to keep to the bal­ance of 49% anger ver­sus 51% en­ter­tain­ment. Then and now.

I’ve been do­ing what I do since 1968 – it is a full-time com­mit­ment and, be­cause it is al­ways rein­vent­ing it­self, the­atre keeps me on my toes and liv­ing in the mo­ment. The great li­brary of sto­ries that have been shared from the stage has done so much to al­low us in the au­di­ence to con­front the drama of life, of re­la­tion­ships, of pain, of tur­moil and strife.

And, of course, the re­lease of ten­sion through laugh­ter, ei­ther via com­edy or hu­mour. Pol­i­tics has to­day be­come pure the­atre, but I would rather stick to the stage than be brained in Par­lia­ment by a fly­ing red hard­hat!

Uys’ one-man mem­oir, The Echo of a Noise, runs from Wed­nes­day to April 9 at the Pi­eter To­e­rien The­atre at Mon­te­casino, Jo­han­nes­burg.

Book at com­puticket.co.za Watch the lat­est episode of Evita’s Free Speech

on YouTube every Sun­day

WANDERER Pi­eter-Dirk Uys in Melk­bosstrand, West­ern Cape

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