Seeing the world just part of job

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iol travel march 19 thami cw Thami Mbongo Stratford-upon-Avon

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INSPIRING: Shakespeares place of birth, Stratford-upon-Avon.

SA actor Thami Mbongo has won awards for his roles on stage, and has also acted on television. He is best known for his role as Moses Gumede in the television drama series Shooting Stars.

A Brett Goldin Bursary Award recipient, he is currently artistic director of the Zabalaza Theatre Festival at the Baxter. His acting career has led to numerous trips abroad. He shares some of these experiences:

How widely have you travelled?

I have been most lucky to have travelled to several cities in the UK and also in the US through my work as an actor. My first trip was to the UK when I went to Stratford-upon-Avon as a 2008 Brett Goldin Bursary Award winner, and then again in 2009 as one of the cast members in the Baxter Theatre Centre and Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Tempest.

We toured six cities around the UK with the production, including Richmond, Leeds, Bath, Nottingham and Sheffield. I also visited London with Lara Foot’s multiple award-winning Karoo Moose at the Tricycle Theatre. In the US I went to Pittsburg for their well-known and popular Children’s Festival.

Where was your favourite holiday or time spent abroad?

iol travel march 19 cw Thamii Mbongo

SCHOLAR OF THEATRE: The worlds a stage for actor Thami Mbongo.

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Definitely Stratford-upon-Avon. After all, as an actor, spending a whole month in the place where William Shakespeare was born was really inspiring. It is a small and beautiful town, very gentle and very popular with local and international tourists. I would stand outside The Courtyard Theatre – one of the RSC’s venues, just across from the Avon River, and listen to the sounds of the swans, geese and nature – it was so inspiring. It was also a great honour to meet some of great stage and theatre legends like Cicely Berry, John Barton, Patrick Stewart, David Tennant. It is amazing to be up close and personal with these world-famous actors and teachers.

Your worst experience on a holiday?

My trip coming back from the US, without a doubt. I was supposed to fly from New York City to Heathrow Airport and had to wait for 16 hours for the flight back to Cape Town. By then I had no money and my per diem (daily allowance) was depleted because I spent so much money on connecting flights. What with the rand/dollar thing going on, I had no money left, so I had to call my agent for assistance. Emma Ress is the best. She transferred money into my account so that I could finally get home.

What do you avoid on holiday?

Well, I have a confession to make. My sense of direction is non-existent so I do tend to get lost easily in new places and especially in a foreign country. So I avoid going out on my own. I always ensure that I am with people all the time.

Your favourite restaurant and food during your travels?

I am a very simple person. I love cheese in the morning and during the course of the day. For supper, it’s meat.

So I generally go to places where I know that I am going to be able to order those two food types. I am not terribly adventurous – I eat what I know I love.

Your favourite place for sundowners?

I no longer drink alcohol – not even socially. But when I used to drink, I used to make sure that I went to any place with an SA vibe, whether locally or abroad. I always do research before going to a new city – I seek out venues which have an SA feel or connection.

I also visit many theatres so in the past I would enjoy a drink at the different theatres.

Any travel tips?

Avoid getting involved in arguments, always have a small map with you.

If you want to party, make sure it’s close to where you are staying, and be certain that it’s in a safe area and with reliable company.

Always be friendly and be willing to learn from others. And never forget the reason you are there in the first place. - Weekend Argus

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