Veteran actor takes to living slower

Published Dec 14, 2006

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At this exhausting time of year Tobie Cronje is |totally making sense when he talks thoughtfully about "slow living", a concept he believes takes just as much effort as buzzing around because "you still have to concentrate on what you're doing".

"Slow living is a worldwide phenomenon. It started in Italy. There was a guy who was so disgusted by the fast food idea that he decided to open a 'slow food' restaurant. They take time to prepare the food and you can't rush the eating when you go there," explains Cronje.

"That city became more aware of living slowly, of not rushing so much. If you rush less, you actually get more done."

Cronje might sound like he's slowing down his life at 58, but he's still entertaining Cape Town audiences in Fangs, a comedy-musical scheduled to run until January at the Baxter Theatre.

"I get offered tickets a lot to watch theatre. But I want to stay at home more. Being quiet and finding out what you like is important. A lot of people keep busy by running away from themselves. It can't just be about work and parties and getting drunk. People are afraid of what they'll find," says Cronje.

While I'm munching on some health bites, Cronje's opted for bottled water only. He continues to tell me that he's "into meditation" and has also taught tai chi in Joburg, where he lives.

"Just put aside 10 to 15 minutes a day and look at your life and you will see that your life changes as well. Think slower and your life will also slow down. It's very easy to get carried away by rushing and then you can't stop," says the veteran actor.

When Cronje was younger he was used to lengthy stage runs that lasted "between five and nine months". The only problem back then was keeping things fresh every night when a new audience sat in the theatre.

"I did a musical, I Love My Wife, for a year. Then we did it again for five months. Once you've done a show for a long time you get 'long-run-itis'. You start struggling after a while to make things new. To say the same line every night and make it sound like the first time is hard," he explains.

"Most actors have a ritual that they follow. You do your make-up in a specific sequence and you put your costume on in a sequence. Changing your ritual also helps to keep things fresh."

Cronje first performed his current role as the Fangs' psychiatrist trying to understand vampires in 1977.

A lesson he picked up while studying drama at Pretoria University saw him through a glitch during that run.

"I dried (when an actor forgets his lines) and had to run off stage and I needed a script. I just told the audience to excuse me. I felt terrible and everyone knows and everyone looks at you. I had friends in the audience and they thought that was all part of the show," recalls Cronje.

Cronje has lived a large part of his life under the critical spotlight. He delves into what sounds like his mid-life crisis.

"When I was about 45 I starting doubting my career. I thought I should do something else, like opening a restaurant, but I realised that I'm happiest acting. The problem is that one does need money and in acting there's not a lot of money, unless you're one of those big stars. But if you really like what you're doing, you do it with honesty and integrity. What can really go wrong?"

- Fangs runs at the Baxter Theatre until January 6.

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