by Sandy Nene
Umlazi born Mpume Mthombeni is an award winning performer who has made a great name for herself in the South African theatre industry. Uniq Magazine caught up with her to learn a little bit more about her career.
How did your theatre career kick off? In 1991 I used to buy the Mercury Newspaper to check out for jobs,then I read the post about auditions for a youth program which was called Napac’s Kwasa Community Outreach, so I went in for auditions at the Playhouse and luckily I was selected. Here we were given the intro into Drama,Dance,Music,and Stage management. The program was a year long and at the end of 1992 we received Certificates.
How long have you been performing? I’ve been working professionally for 22 years now
Do you remember your first audition? How was the experience Yes I do, the very first one to be accepted at the playhouse in 1991, I didn’t even know what the word audition meant, had to check it on the dictionary. Luckily my neighbour Xolani Gumbi was doing Speech and Drama at the then Natal Tech, I went and asked him for advice. I was very nervous,there I was wearing, a long skirt,not knowing I would have to dance around and roll on the floor, it was very funny as I recall it.I remember when we were asked to do monologues ey,I only managed to do “out damn spot out” and got frozen from there. I guess Themi Venturas saw the potential from there I really don’t know how. But I made it.
Give us 5 tips to kill stage fright? For me i would say breathing is the best medicine.
How has theatre changed your life? I have gained much more general knowledge as the job requires you to do a lot of observing and researching. Luckily i am the kind of person who is always looking to learn something new everyday, reading is my favourite, I even pick up a paper on the street and read it, that assisted me a lot with my vocab. Joining the library,taking out and reading any book that interested me was very helpful in my career, as the person who is the product of the Bantu education whereby even the teacher who was supposed to be teaching you English, would be pronouncing those words wrong.
Meeting with people of different background and race has shaped me into becoming the actor that I am now. With every project that I’m embarking, I’m always thrown into some big challenges that before I start I think ” No I won’t be able to pull this off” Then I would always have a conversation within myself that ” let me just throw myself there and treat it as a learning process, I will cross that bridge when I get there” and surprisingly it works
I have also learnt to understand my body,my voice and my spirituality. I have also learnt to listen and have gained a lot of confidence in my work. I have seen a bit of the world which is exciting. And I still want to see more. I know my strengths and weaknesses.
What’s your most favourite production you’ve done thus far? Or should we say production,because the production I have done are mind blowing. If you have seen Tin Bucket Drum, Animal Farm, Ulwembu,Amagama Amathathu, you will understand what I’m saying. My work is all about healing.
When not performing, what are you most likely to be seen doing? You will find me learning the art of trading the market or making some wire baskets
Finish the sentences; performing is… Healing. That is where I get to connect with my spiritual side. Getting to experience how it feels to step into someone else’s shoes.
If I was not involved in theatre I would… Be working as a librarian or a sociologist
My favourite production director is… Neil Coppen