National Arts Festival 2016: The Echo Of Noise

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CuePix/Ruan Scheepers - National Arts Festival 2015
CuePix/Ruan Scheepers – National Arts Festival 2015

Well-known satirist, Pieter-Dirk Uys, sheds away Evita for this one man show that focuses largely on the personal. Presented as a memoir, the approach is one that reaffirms the bravery that has made him one of the most successful and foremost performers in the country. While we are used to seeing him tackle current affairs and political issues that affect South Africa, in The Echo of a Noise, the focus is on the human being.

He sits on a bar stool for a majority of the show with a lone spotlight overhead for effect. At first it is hard to adjust to the all-black attire complete with a beanie and a sweater that mockingly bears the slogan, Almost Famous. No theatrics are adopted here except for the occasional music playing in the background in moments where it is referenced. On the whole it feels like one of those moments where you are sitting at the feet of an old sage listening to them telling wise tales about days passed.

Pieter moves from childhood memories that betray the naïveté of a young boy all of which is characterised by a complex relationship he had with his father, Hannes Uys and being almost coddled by his mother, Helga Bassel. You get taken on a whirlwind adventure in a coming of age telling of how one man’s convictions and politics were formed from the onset. All along you get to know his father’s writing desk and the many pianos of his childhood home in Pinelands as necessary characters in his amazing story.

CuePix/Ruan Scheepers - National Arts Festival 2015
CuePix/Ruan Scheepers – National Arts Festival 2015
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For the most part Pieter does not lose his tongue in cheek nature but it is in the dichotomy of how some of what he lets us into is nothing short of tragic. The suicide of his loving mother who suffered from mental illness, the informing of separatist culture courtesy of the same mother’s German-Jewish ancestry and the subsequent censor committee that came with the developing apartheid government.

The fleeting emotions the narrative invokes are relentless in how they hit you and never once are you allowed a chance to wallow in them. You are made to laugh split seconds after you’ve been punched in the chest by painful details. Very soon you forget that Evita even exists and you become one with this 70 year old theatre veteran and celebrated satirist while everything else disappears.

Arguably one of the best shows I’ve seen at NAF2016 so far, it ended to thunderous applause as Pieter pulls out a tube of lipstick and smeers it on, to the accompaniment of the Evita theme song. You want to hug and kiss him at this point because nowhere else has such bravery been shown; and you walk away with a sense of pride remembering that he has implored you to be brave!

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