Just when it seems that damp tissues and tremulous obituaries are in order with the demise of the iconic Evita Bezuidenhout, an abrupt change of tone and mood brings us back to reality as Pieter-Dirk Uys exchanges the breathy reverence of Sir David Attenborough’s funeral oration for a business-like reassurance that he, PDU, would never be so ill-advised as to kill off his most lucrative creation. His appearance as himself, austerely clad in plain black basics and sans wig, punctuates impersonations of the many individuals with whom Ms Bezuidenhout has bonded over the last four decades, giving an elegant structure to this new show as it traces her remarkable biography.
The comedian’s ingenuity as well as his gift for the unexpected are the chief strengths of #HeTwo: Evita Exposed, the spelling of the latter word attesting to PDU’s mental agility as he manipulates the familiar hash-tag to suggest duality instead of its usual connotations. And duality is what it’s all about as the creator and his creation, male and female, share the stage thanks to videos evoking the life and times of Tannie Evita. This provides an ideal vehicle for Uys’ exceptional versatility as he morphs from one persona to another with minimal help from make-up and costume, his facial repertoire and body-language more than equal to supplying whatever else is necessary.
With enviable aplomb, he constructs and deconstructs his alter ego before our eyes, now applying false eyelashes, now wiping off lipstick with a practiced confidence honed since 1981, when he first introduced us to this woman on April 1st – a significant date… The same approach is generally made to portraying the gamut of celebrities who also feature here as the performer doffs or dons wigs, spectacles, and the occasional hat to efface his own personality in favour of the person evoked. This not exactly new, however, and the only fault in an otherwise brilliant show is the revisiting of old and hoary material. While a sketch or two of the Bothas (PW and Pik) may be justified - especially in the case of the latter, whose relationship with Evita B was reputed to border on the inappropriate – these impersonations are now so familiar as to lose much of their impact, and their inclusion here is over-long.
What is far more stimulating is the existential question raised at the outset by Uys: “How can you kill someone who does not exist?”, followed, perversely, by proving that Evita Bezuidenhout has taken on a life and reality of her own which make her virtually independent of her creator. In true PDU fashion, the comedian reserves the biggest surprise for the end, like a chef keeping a superb dessert to round off a feast in style and send everyone home bemused and happy. In the midst of a florid speech extolling the new South Africa with a patriotism reminiscent of Shakespeare’s rave about “this sceptred isle… this other Eden” in King Richard II, Uys is suddenly pulled up short by an indignant outburst from Ms Bezuidenhout, dressed in identical attire to his own, as she rails against his crude impersonation of her. What could be more subversive? Or more delightfully thought-provoking? Or more typically PDU?
#HeTwo: Evita Exposed
Directed, Devised and Performed by Pieter-Dirk Uys
Venue: Theatre on the Bay, until September 14