The playwright-performer as scourge and benefactor : an examination of political satire and lampoon in South African theatre, with particular reference to Pieter-Dirk Uys.
During the 1970s the plays of Pieter-Dirk Uys became causes celebres. In the 1980s he was, commercially and artistically, arguably the most successful South African satirist. By 1990 he had gained recognition in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Germany. Yet relatively little research has been undertaken or published which evaluates his contribution to South African theatre as a playwright and performer of political satire. This dissertation aims to document and assess the satiric work of Uys and that of his precursors and contemporaries. The first chapter identifies certain characteristic features and purposes of satire as a creative method which cannot be defined in purely literary terms. The views of local practitioners and references to its manifestation in various non-literary and indigenous forms are included to support the descriptive approach to satire in performance adopted in later chapters. Of necessity to a study of Uys's lampoons, Chapter 2 discusses the origins of lampoon and the theatrical presentation of actual persons by Aristophanes (the first extant Western playwright to do so). Both the textual and visual ridicule of Socrates, Euripides, Cleon and Lamachus are considered, to argue that Aristophanes employed the nominal character as a factional type to exemplify a concept for humorous rather than meliorative purposes. Part One of Chapter 3 is a necessarily selective survey of the diversity, style and censorship of satire in South Africa in various theatrical, literary and journalistic forms. Part Two describes the use of satire by Adam Leslie, Jeremy Taylor, Robert Kirby and, more recently, Paul Slabolepszy, Mark Banks, Ian Fraser, Eric Miyeni and the 'alternative' Afrikaners in plays and in revue, cabaret and stand-up comedy. Chapter 4 examines the principal themes of Uys's plays to date, the 1981-1992 revues as entertainment and as a reflection of certain social and political issues, the similarities between his theatrical praxis and that of Aristophanes, and his satiric strategies in performance: his preparatory and visual signifiers, his concern with proxemics, and his mastery of kinesics, paralanguage and chronemics in depicting a spectrum of fictional and non-fictional personae, including Evita Bezuidenhout, P.W. Botha and the Uys-persona.