×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Foreign Aids

Pieter-Dirk Uys' remarkable solo show "Foreign Aids," in its quiet and unhyped way, has been one of the international sensations of a globally minded London theatrical summer. South African satirist-comedian Uys' latest standup piece has no production values and one could argue that a director might sharpen a two-act event into a tighter.

With:
With: Pieter-Dirk Uys.

South Africa is enjoying a second chance post-apartheid, but how many citizenry there or anywhere get a reprieve when it comes to unsafe sex? That’s one of the multiple starting points for Pieter-Dirk Uys’ remarkable solo show “Foreign Aids,” which in its quiet and unhyped way has been one of the international sensations of a globally minded London theatrical summer. South African satirist-comedian Uys’ latest standup piece has no production values — the set is a jumble of Save the Children boxes — and one could argue that a director might sharpen a two-act event into a tighter, possibly intermissionless emotional juggernaut. But that’s to worry about window dressing at the expense of an artist’s seemingly boundless empathy.

Now 56, Uys deserves as wide an audience as possible for a polemic — hilarious and devastating, in turn — that can’t scream its message loudly enough: South Africa may have been marginalized in the world’s eyes following the dismantling of apartheid, but when it comes to the decimation wrought in the region by AIDS, attention simply must be paid. (Estimates point to as many as 2 million AIDS orphans in the area within five years.)

Uys is angry, and who can blame him: “The house is on fire,” as he puts it. “You can’t be polite.” There’s real savagery in his indictment of an Mbeki regime that has all but closed its eyes to the risks of HIV and AIDS even as the death count escalates. (“My mind is made up,” says the Mbeki figure in Uys’ show. “Don’t confuse me with facts.”) And what can one say of well-meaning initiatives gone preposterously awry? Last year, the South African Dept. of Health distributed 40 million free condoms — stapling them to instruction cards, thus rendering them worthless or lethal or both.

The statistics, indeed, are so disheartening — one out of nine children is infected; so is 40% of the workforce — that despair would seem the only possible response. That’s why Uys’ ability to temper rage with comedy and wit seems not just theatrically astute but deeply humane as well. Watching Uys create a panoply of characters to give even Dame Edna pause (one of which, Mrs. Evita Bezuidenhout, “the most famous white woman in South Africa,” is Uys’ own Dame Edna equivalent), you emerge dizzy from the sleight of hand with which Uys switches parts (and frocks). What’s more, you’re chastened by a compassion more voluble than language, even if present-day South Africa does talk in 11 official tongues.

Some of the show is given over specifically to characters — a white liberal from Cape Town’s largely Jewish Sea Point with her (unseen) Xhosa maid, Dora; a bungling Johannesburg police sergeant adrift in an environment where a woman is raped every four seconds; and Andre from the wardrobe department, a figure fully enough delineated to warrant a play all his own. The rest allows Uys to double as reporter and raconteur, while paying tremulous testament to the transition from the old South Africa to the new: During apartheid, says Uys, “We killed people; now we’re just letting them die.”

Foreign Aids

Tricycle Theater, London; 241 Seats; £15 ($21.50) Top

Production: A Tricycle Theater presentation of a solo show in two acts written and performed by Pieter-Dirk Uys.

Creative: Lighting, Darren Murray. Opened July 3, 2001; reviewed July 9. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: With: Pieter-Dirk Uys.

More Legit

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

  • Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    With an HBO documentary that places strong allegations of abuse against Michael Jackson premiering in two weeks, the late singer’s estate announced Thursday that it’s canceling a scheduled Chicago test run of a jukebox musical about him. The estate and its producing partner in the musical, Columbia Live Stage, said that they’re setting their sights on going [...]

  • All About Eve review

    West End Review: Gillian Anderson and Lily James in 'All About Eve'

    To adapt a crass old adage: it’s “All About Eve,” not “All About Steve.” Stripping Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s sharp-witted screenplay about a waning theater star of its period trappings, Ivo van Hove’s stage adaptation fine-tunes its feminism for our own sexist age — image-obsessed, anti-aging, the time of Time’s Up. Rather than blaming Lily James’ [...]

  • Adam Shankman

    Listen: Why Adam Shankman Directs Every Movie Like It's a Musical

    Director Adam Shankman’s latest movie, the Taraji P. Henson comedy “What Men Want,” isn’t a musical. But as one of Hollywood’s top director-choreographers of musicals and musical sequences, he approaches even non-musicals with a sense of tempo. Listen to this week’s podcast below: More Reviews Film Review: Keira Knightley in 'The Aftermath' Sundance Film Review: [...]

  • Matthew Bourne's 'Cinderella' Review

    L.A. Theater Review: Matthew Bourne's 'Cinderella'

    How much can you change “Cinderella” before it is no longer “Cinderella”? In the case of choreography maestro Matthew Bourne — who, it should be said, first unveiled his spin on the classic folk tale some 22 years ago — the music is most certainly “Cinderella” (Prokofiev’s 1945 score, to be exact), but the plot [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content