Stages on pages : a comparative study of Pieter-Dirk Uys' one man shows as an autobiographical alternative to memoir.
Campbell, Sheldon Troy.
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In this dissertation I seek to analyse the use of autobiographical monologues and elements in selected scenes from the political revues Foreign Aids (2001) and Elections and Erections (2009) by South African playwright-performer Pieter-Dirk Uys. The purpose of this analysis is to evaluate the use of autobiographical writing in revue performance as an alternative method for presenting autobiography to spectators. My argument is that the unique style and format of the revue-form provides a distinct approach to the live performance of autobiography. The analyses centre on the revues Foreign Aids and Elections and Erections in a literary comparison with Uys’ two prose narrative memoirs, Elections and Erections: A Memoir of Fear and Fun (2002) and Between the Devil and the Deep: A Memoir of Acting and Reacting (2005). These two book-length print memoirs have passages of text that correspond with the autobiographical monologues and other dramatic elements in the revues that I have selected. The aim of providing the comparative analysis of Uys’ revues with his memoirs is to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of these genres insofar as Uys has employed each to attempt to write and perform aspects of his life-story. In order to facilitate these analyses, I have researched international studies on the interdisciplinary field of performance autobiography. I have come to rely on two key theorists of performance autobiography, Sherrill Grace and Deirdre Heddon, and I have applied their theories to my study of Uys’ revues. I discuss several autobiographical scenes in Foreign Aids, comparing them with passages from Elections and Erections: A Memoir of Fear and Fun, and I compare a selected monologue in Elections and Erections, the revue, with a passage containing the same material in Between the Devil and the Deep: A Memoir of Acting and Reacting. The comparison between the revues and the memoirs reveals the narrative and stylistic similarities and differences between Uys’ writing and performance of the self in performance narrative as opposed to prose narrative. The study identifies the most salient features of Uys’ autobiographical performances, including the thematic links between the individual life-story and the concern with social welfare, the sharing of intimate anecdotes regarding his own sex-life and the sexual practices of South Africans, and the relationality between the self and other represented in dialogues where he portrays himself and other characters speaking to each other.