South African One-Man Show Tackles Government Response to AIDS
Pieter-Dirk Uys, a gay, white, 56-year-old South African known as the nation's "most prominent satirist," has switched the "targets of his mockery" from the white-minority government of the apartheid era to the black-majority government's "failure" to respond to the country's AIDS epidemic in his new one-man show "Foreign AIDS," the New York Times reports. Uys shows the same "readiness to draw fire from and taunt the authorities" in his new show, but he admits that "[i]n a racially charged society of new taboos in which whites no longer dominate, it is far more difficult" to perform his brand of satire "without being accused of racism." In an effort to avoid provoking blacks, he resists doing outright impersonations of black political leaders, as he did with whites, instead treating them as "celebrity superstars." But the "political elite" that surround President Thabo Mbeki, criticized for his public expressions of doubt over the causal link between HIV and AIDS, are not off limits in "Foreign AIDS." The play, currently being performed in the Kilburn district of North London, grew out of the touring show "For Fact's Sake" that Uys took to 160 South African schools. The free show attempted to teach young people that they could avoid HIV by "changing their sexual habits." The experience exposed Uys to "things that were harsh and that were uplifting for their display of courage," and those experiences "fuel" several of the "tirades" against the South African government that Uys' characters engage in as part of his new production. Uys realizes that those tirades "could also land him in big political trouble back home," where he has not yet performed the play. However, he continues to be provocative, not only with South Africans, but also with the Western world. One of his characters, Bambi Kellerman, the wife of a Nazi fugitive, compares the developed world's "indifference" to Africa's AIDS epidemic to the Allied troops' "inaction to prevent the Holocaust" during the early years of World War II. Uys is not afraid of the audience's reaction because the play is meant to force people to "confront their fear of AIDS," he said. "AIDS is the beginning and the end in South Africa. If AIDS succeeds, we won't have a country anymore," he said. The show next will move to the Netherlands and "possibly" New York (Cowell, New York Times, 8/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.