Scrapbook: Uys and Coetzee


 Scrapbook memories… every now and then I dip into scrapbooks that piled up during my 24 years as Arts Editor of The Mercury newspaper in Durban and, just for fun, dig out reviews and interviews from yesteryear. Today we go back more than two decades, to March 1998.


Scrapbook memories today hark back to two of my reviews of solo theatre works – one, a now-iconic, multi-award-winning drama, staged at Durban’s Playhouse Loft; the other a review of one of Pieter-Dirk Uys’s best productions, staged at the Playhouse Opera.

The clipping above is my review of White Men With Weapons, written by and starring former teacher Greig Coetzee, and directed by the late Garth Anderson. It was in town for its third and final season before seasons in Perth and Singapore.

It had scooped two Fleur du Cap Awards, 11 regional and six National FNB Vita Awards, as well as rave reviews nationally and in New York, by the time it reached Durban again for this review, printed in The Mercury on March 3, 1998.

A razor-sharp satire on life in South African military service during apartheid years, the play, a series of vivid sketches, had Coetzee playing a dozen or so characters inspired by real people he had come across during compulsory army training in Oudtshoorn, time in which he refused to carry a rifle.

I noted in my crit that White Men With Weapons was one of the best plays to come out of this country, “a fine salute to one man’s versatility and an incisive expose of a way of life thankfully now erased here”.

The clipping below is of my March 1998 review of Pieter-Dirk Uys: Live From Boerassic Park – and also featured is a picture and caption offering ticket giveaways to the show.

Also mentioned is a teaser for a fun Mercury fashion shoot with Uys, as Evita Bezuidenhout, alongside East Coast Radio personalities Damon Beard, Naveen Singh and Kevin Minter-Brown. How young they all look!

Uys, then 53, poked fun at everyone – but whereas, in his earlier shows, during his jurassic larks, he enthusiastically flung wide the Boerassic Park gates to wheel out the political dinosaurs, I noted that in Live From Boerassic Park he only briefly aired the old fossils.

With Winnie, PW, Pik, FW and Buthelezi relegated to a sideshow, Uys devoted a large section of his hour-plus first half to reflect a mood more poignant and personal, albeit often hilarious.

The show’s second half was devoted to the divine Ms Evita Bezuidenhout, stabbing sharply into all and sundry.

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