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Elections and Erections
by Lizzie Loveridge

Hypocrisy is the vaseline of political intercourse.
--- Pieter-Dirk Uys
Elections and Erections
Pieter-Dirk Uys
The South African satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys is premiering his new one-man show in London. Named after the two things which were illegal for most of his life under the South African apartheid regime, Elections and Erections, one has the terrible sense of disillusionment and disappointment felt by those who campaigned for the overthrow of that divisive political system. Pieter-Dirk Uys stresses the hope that was felt for the future ten years ago with the birth of the New South Africa. He reminds us what the situation might have been like if Nelson Mandela had come out of jail, after the best part of three decades, feeling angry.

Underneath the humour and irony, "when many South Africans voted for the first time and some of them voted many times" there is a deadly serious point about the present government of South Africa, "the men and women who put the mock in democracy and the con in constitution." It is for Pieter-Dirk Uys and many gay men, the denial of the HIV/AIDS crisis, the refusal of Thabo Mbeki, the present President of South Africa to admit that AIDS is the result of a sexually transmitted disease that infuriates. And as those in power get richer, you can spot a government ministers' meeting by the number of Mercedes Benz parked outside, and the majority of the people get poorer, hope fades. Watching Pieter-Dirk Uys, there were moments when I thought about the courage of German satirists in the 1930s using the mask of comedy to make serious political points in a country full of fear and censorship. I loved the way Pieter-Dirk says that he will not criticise the present government, that he will not mention the excesses and abuses but then proceeds to do that, just by saying that he will not talk about this.

Pieter-Dirk Uys's show is quick fire patter, very funny as, changing into the costumes onstage, he parades a succession of characters, real and devised. He mimics the "GreatCrocodile", PW Botha, with his tongue darting, lip licking, finger poking speeches, who upheld the separatist state and switches to his famous drag creation, the over the top Jewish mother Evita Bezuidenhout. He impersonates Archbishop Desmond Tutu (who gave him some of his rings), Nelson Mandela, Brendan the air steward on the presidential private jet, and the white liberal middle aged woman who has adopted an AIDS orphan but who wears rubber gloves out of ignorance and fear. Pieter-Dirk also questions Mbeki's alliance with Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. But it is his darkly comic portrayal of Grace Mugabe to the tune of Old MacDonald had a Farm which shows the wife of the Zimbabwean president shopping for farms and sanctioning the killing of white Zimbabweans as if on her legendary shopping expeditions. The point that Thabo is a rearrangement of the letters of Botha is well made.

Elections and Erections is welcome and important, not least because it reminds us how theatre can be used for serious political comment, comedy that does so much more than merely make us laugh.

Elections and Erections
Written and performed by Pieter-Dirk Uys
Running time: Ninety minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7478 1000
Booking to 29th May 2004.
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 12th May 2004 performance at the Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1 (Tube: Tottenham Court Road)
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