When I speak listeners immediately pick up my accent and realize I am not from here, but I do live here. My friendly neighbour copes with my ignorance and gives a quick introduction to the man we are about to see. I am not the only one as the Victoria Theatre is a full house tonight for The Echo of a Noise in which 70 year old Uys returns to Grahamstown. My neighbour’s husband helps to describe his approach: satire. He has been doing this for years and humour was his way to fight against the nonsense of Apartheid. Because he is white and an Afrikaner he got away with it.
The packed theater is ready for laughter. A sole barstool is set on the big stage and the memoir The Echo of a Noise starts with a recording of Pietertjie singing high pitched accompanied by a familymember playing the piano. From those childhood memories of growing up in a family of acclaimed pianists Uys counterfeits dinner parties with Uncle Andrew rubbing his leg, a number on the wrist of a German aunt, the homecooking of Aunt … who made every meal a feast and did not force to eat up the fish, the censorship board, childhood dreams of becoming a locomotive machinist or dominee, his revolting steps in theatre and the inventive ways to pass the Censorship Board.
Quite often these are painful memories and the audience has to swallow deep, but through the years Uys developed a way to fight injustice with humour. As a master storyteller he makes his audience roar with laughter and does some soul searching on the side. Phrases that reoccur during the performance are loaden with new meaning. in the next story. As an echo of a noise. An audience all ears, laughter and some tears.
Photography: CuePix/ Jane Berg – National Arts Festival 2016