Sophie Thompson asks four inveterate travellers to share some of their baggage secrets.
1 What do you do?
I’m a set designer.
2 The most interesting place you have performed?
Right now I am in Cape Town preparing to open Cabaret at the Theatre on the Bay. You step out of the theatre and are literally on the beach in Camps Bay. Coffee breaks have never been so beautiful.
3. The essentials you have to pack for your trips?
Ground plan, tape measure, staple gun, glue gun, velcro, brushes and painting clothes.
4 Your most traumatic or funniest luggage experience?
Arrived in Athens for a three-week tour of Greece and Turkey and the wheels came off my luggage on the concourse. Had to pickpocket a knife from our hotel dining room to screw them back on. Sort of.
5 Have you ever arrived at an event and discovered you have left something essential behind?
My focus is always on the task at hand, so most often I have everything for the job I’m doing sorted. The problem usually comes in when I get to the hotel and realise I’ve totally forgotten all my toiletries/underwear/shoes – whatever I need to take care of myself.
6 What do you pack that you always take? Besides toothbrush and underpants?
7 Ever travelled with naughty items you shouldn’t have?
8. When you do travel, how many bags do you have to pack?
I travel light. One suitcase and a carry-all usually does it. Coming home with all the stuff I’ve bought is a different story.
But when I am creating a set, then countless of bakkie loads laden with goodies to make our sets come alive.
Good question. I stand on stage and make people laugh while talking to myself. Stand-up comedy using ventriloquism.
The Iraqi desert for the British troops.
3 The essentials you have to pack for your trips?
Underwear and salt and vinegar peanuts.
4 Most traumatic luggage experience?
I have lost my luggage on many an occasion, but for legal reasons I can’t give you the name, although I could give you their initials… KLM.
5 Ever arrived at a gig and discovered you have left something essential behind?
I forgot the puppets once, so I used a man from the audience as my dummy and that’s what started my whole human ventriloquist dummy bit.
Nothing I could mention.
8. When you do travel, how many bags do you pack?
I check in all my sponge friends into the hold with my clothes and travel on board with some small hand luggage.
I sail racing yachts, mostly in South Africa, but I have had the opportunity to sail overseas. I am a navigator, but do sail in many other positions.
2 The most interesting place you have competed?
Porto Cervo, Sardinia. I competed in a regatta there earlier this year. It’s one of the nicest places in the Med. The sailing is incredible. There are many rocks and beautiful little islands stick out that one needs to navigate around – a demanding task.
A good set of foul weather gear, my sunglasses and my compass puck for tactical navigation. The harsh sun and reflections off the water mean a decent pair of sunglasses is required. I am terrible with them, though. I have probably been through 10 pairs in the last year and a half.
4 Most traumatic or funniest luggage experience?
When travelling overseas to work on a yacht, we had to repack our bags in the airport as one bag was too heavy. We were already almost late for our flight and this really didn’t help.
5 Have you ever arrived at a gig and found you have left something essential behind?
We arrived in Porto Cervo after bringing the boat across from Palma. We had forgotten a new sail we had recently bought. In a flash we had the sail maker on the phone and he delivered it to Palma Airport, where the owner’s private jet picked it up.
I always take my iPod with me. Long flights or deliveries require good music. I don’t have any good luck charms. I believe good preparation is the key to doing well, so I try to get to the boat before everyone else and make sure I am ready to go.
Nothing particularly naughty. But I have tried to take a Leatherman (knife) in my hand luggage.
8 When you do travel, how many bags do you have to pack ?
I always take one bag of clothes and one bag with my laptop and important stuff. I am a master at packing light – for my last six-week overseas trip I clocked in at 17kg. This included sailing gear, heavy foul-weather gear and a pair of sailing boots. I was quite proud, as I had a fair bit of walking to do with the bag.
I am a mentalist. I travel into people’s minds to read what they are thinking and even predict what they will say or do. I present entertaining shows at theatres and for corporate functions.
2. The most interesting place you have performed?
In Israel, my audience comprised mainly learned men who, for around eight hours a day, would study philosophy. They questioned everything when I first arrived, but by the time I left I had come to realise I could start my own religion. I think I would call it Gorkology. But I think I’ll stick to uplifting people through entertainment.
3. Essentials you pack for your trips?
Usually show items and a change of clothes if I’m flying in and out of cities for shows.
4. Most traumatic or funniest luggage experience?
I have a piece in my show in which a volunteer from the audience hides a stainless steel spike under one of five foam cups and I have to try to locate the spike. I do this by slamming my hand down to crush one cup at a time until the last remains with the spike under it. Try forgetting this is in your hand luggage as it passes through the X-ray machine. Half the security thought I was dangerous. The other half thought I had a sick fetish. I had to convince them not to confiscate it.
5 Ever arrived at a gig and discovered you left something essential behind?
In one of my first theatre shows I presented a feat in which I wrote a story on a large piece of board, locked this folded board in a secure chest and had the chest in full view throughout the entire show. For the finale I would ask randomly selected people to make up a story by thinking up some random facts and descriptions.
I would then unlock the chest and have someone remove the piece of board. We’d then read it out to the audience to show that my prediction correctly matches the story the audience thought up. Halfway through the piece, nearing the climax, I realised the keys to the padlock on the chest were not in my pocket. Thankfully, a crew member found the key.
Shoe shine. I have to make sure my shoes are clean before going on stage.
7 Ever travelled with naughty items that you shouldn’t have?
Yes. But nobody would ever pick it up unless they are experts at psychological manipulation.
8 When you do travel, how many bags do you have to pack?
I’m overweight more often than not, so I land up having to rely on my powers of persuasion to avoid surcharges. - Sunday Tribune