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Gomora's bald talent makes triumphant return to theatre

Thulani Mtsweni's casting in Woza Albert alongside Hamilton Dlamini is a full-circle moment that rewards his persistence in the industry
Fri, Mar 17, 2023

PHOTO: @ZAMarvellous via @JoburhTheatre Twitter

I imagine the actor, Thulani Mtsweni (Gomora) to be one of a gaggle of jitas on a street corner with the happiest stories among his friends. Often in this type of gabfest, the one who paints an image of an event punctuated with action and comedy endears the audience.

While this chap is highly performative, Mtsweni's style involves capturing his visitors with genuine restraint and well-considered words. He also seems to be endowed with the ability to pitch and temper his voice at the right time. This happens in his life, on the stage, and in television and film.

Shembe-esque respectability is enhanced by the unkempt beard and a Joshua Doore-like bald head. At 36, Mtsweni has played his fair share of menacing patriarchs on IsidingoIsibaya and currently, Gomora. This also means his love interests are often ten years older than him or more. But one could not tell due to his manner and movement.

After years of donning the struggling actor rag – often with no money to return home after performances at community theatre festivals he had to find ways to survive. Sometimes he would rely on the grace and kindness of taxi drivers to squeeze him in or he would just sit on top of the blazing hot engine in-between paying commuters and the driver.

Sometimes the drivers refused him a free ride and he would need to spend the night in Jozi fending for himself until the morning. On the stage, he received standing ovations, but no money to return home. Johannesburg Park Station at night became a familiar sight of refuge.

But he kept at it, attending auditions and castings with no luck for many years. Until one day he decided to make a change.

“We were in Grahamstown doing a play and as we were chilling drinking, I told the guys that I was done cutting my hair,” Mtsweni recalls.

“This meant keeping my facial hair too.”

He wanted to fashion himself in the mould of Mike Mvelase (Khaphela in Generations), with better chops and range. And as the hair on his head parted like the red sea, the parts multiplied. He transitioned from Hhayi Bo Mnakwethu on Moja Love (2020) directed by Vusi Dibakwane as Bheki Khumalo (lead), then to Isidingo principal role, Sibiya (2017-2020).

Unknown by Obunye Media (2019) in the role of Boss G. Then Rhythm City (2017) by Quizzical Pictures. Mtsweni then starred as Gedla (supporting role) in iNumber Number by Quizzical Pictures (series) in 2017 and as Nyoka (supporting role) in Isibaya (2020-2021) and Gomora (2021-).

Earlier this year, decorated thespian Hamilton Dlamini (Diep City) sought Mtsweni’s talent to star alongside him in Woza Albert, the seminal satirical play written by Percy Mtwa and Mbongeni Ngema. Dlamini had performed the play to high acclaim alongside the exceptional and late actor, Mncedisi Shabangu, who performed it around the globe.

After traversing the Gomora set twice, Dlamini finally found Mtsweni who was floored by the honour. “I was honoured to get an invite to feature in a play with the legendary Hamilton Dlamini,” Mtsweni says.

“I spent most of the time on production learning from the master and adding my process and style to the role.”

Indeed, Mtsweni was remarkable in keeping up with the skills the experienced Dlamini possess.

  • Catch Gomora every weekday at 19:30 on Mzansi Magic, DStv channel 161