Thomas is a theatre maker from Malawi who moved to the UK to study at UEA, where he's been involved in multiple productions. He is currently working on a very special final year show with his entire year group,  producing Martin Crimp’s play ‘Attempts On Her Life’. Here he talks to Gina Long...


What is your connection to East Anglia?

Well, I go to university here, at UEA studying drama and creative writing. I was recommended it by a high school friend in Malawi who once lived in Norwich. I had a look and I quite liked what it had to offer. I liked the space, the chilled atmosphere of the city and the university looked good, so I came. 

What is your East Anglian heaven?

I love the atmosphere, it's so chilled. It's a lot sunnier than other parts of England! The people are very nice.

What is your East Anglian hell?

I hope I don't sound too mean but… the food, the quality of the produce. I speak to other international students, and we talk about just how bland the food can be. It lacks a little bit of flavour. I think because we do a lot of work around agriculture and farming in Malawi, I can really notice the difference. Back home if I wanted to get veg I'd go to a farmers' market and the food would be from the soil to the table that day. Stuff has more flavour to it over there.

What are your favourite East Anglian restaurants?

I can’t say I’ve been to many but I l do like Saporita, on St Andrews Hill, Norwich - a small Italian restaurant that does really good pizza slices. An Italian family makes the food, and the waiters speak Italian to each other. I really enjoy that kind of authenticity.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

I don't know about landmarks, but one of my favourite pieces of architecture in the city is the commissioned graffiti that hangs over Red Lion Street. The red dragon. It makes the city feel very artsy. 

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

Spring. I love spring in East Anglia. It’s just so beautiful. It’s not too hot or cold, you can wear what you want. There's sunshine, little rain, it's honestly heaven. 

What is your specialist Mastermind subject?

Hollywood movies. I grew up on them.

What is always in your fridge?

I'd have to say peppers. I do a lot with peppers. I put them in my stir fry and with mince. A lot of meat as well as I’m a massive carnivore. 

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

I recently adopted the idea that, basically, if you believe you're gonna regret not doing something… you have to do it. 

What’s your favourite film?

The Dark Knight directed by Christopher Nolan. I’ve loved it ever since I was a kid. I used to watch it over and over again, religiously; I can quote the movie pretty much word for word. 

What was your first job?

It was working as a kind of stagehand slash DSM (deputy stage manager) at my old high school. I did it for a few months but then Covid hit, so I had to stop, and then I went to uni.

Give me three words that describe you

Passionate, dedicated and resilient. I am very committed, sometimes it gets obsessive. It's not something I can really control. At night I tend to stare at the ceiling, still working on things. My brain never stops ticking over. Sometimes when I’m going to sleep I’d like to switch it off, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice. 

What is your most treasured possession?

My Playstation. It's a fairly basic answer, but it is the one thing that helps my brain unwind from everything. Especially now that I'm working on a full-scale production for uni, where I need to be on campus from 9am to 5pm most days. Being able to go home and spend an hour or two doing something essentially mindless helps my brain pause and relax. 

Who do you admire most?

My mother. I look at my mother and at times think she's inhuman. She’s so hardworking, so strong. She's got a lovely character and such motherly energy, but also has such resilience and sense of sacrifice about her. When I was 10, I remember waking up at 3am to go to the bathroom and she was on her bed with a bunch of papers around her working on getting her honours degree in environmental science. She was working so hard to get her degree and looking after me almost by herself as my dad does a lot of business abroad, yet she still had complete control and poise.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Jelly Babies - I eat way too many. I’m infamous for it on campus. 

What do you like about yourself most?

I like that I have a strong sense of perspective. If I fail, I fail and if I succeed, I succeed. There's always a tomorrow. I'd say that's part of my resilient nature. I always want to do the best - but I can, and I will, always just try again.

What’s your worst character trait?

Can I mention two? I have a tendency to be hyper critical of myself and of other people, I get this from my parents. Maybe it's an African thing or maybe just a me thing? Also, sometimes I'm too sanctimonious, like I know all the answers to the world, but I don't. I'm trying to fix this; I enjoy working on myself. 

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

Well, I love the beaches and lakes of Malawi. You go by the lake and you can jet ski and barbecue with friends, the eagles flying above. It’s very beautiful. You can also go to the bar down the beach.

Best day of your life?

I've never had that thought consciously. If I had to say it would be probably April 18, 2018/ That was the day the first ever production I’d directed, written and acted in debuted. It was the first moment I decided it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I got to work with such a cool group of friends and my drama teachers were even in the cast, playing grannies! I was so proud of it. It taught me why I loved making theatre so much. 

What’s your favourite breakfast?

I like a fry-up. With a few eggs, pork sausage, bacon and potatoes. But Malawian produce, if I’m talking favourite of all time. Serve with apple juice and I'm good to go. 

What’s your favourite play?

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. 

What’s your earliest memory?

This is weird, but I remember being a baby and I think my parents were hosting a party and I was being passed around, meeting everyone. I don't remember any of them. 

What would you like played at your funeral?

I think Eminem's ‘When I’m Gone’.  I don't want people to cry at my funeral. I want positive endings. I think the song has lots of lyrics that encourage that. ‘When I'm gone just carry on. Don't mourn, rejoice… I’m looking down on you smiling.”. 

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

When I was a kid I was a massive fan of Winx Club. It's a TV show about fairies.  I don't like the new Netflix version of it, it’s a bit dark and dramatic, takes the fun away, but the original animation was elite. 

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

At the moment I am working on a very special show with my entire year group as our final year project. We are producing Martin Crimp’s play Attempts On Her Life, a really cool post-modern play, about feminism and struggle. We have two very different takes of it with different casts and Directors. It runs December 6 to 11 at the UEA Drama Studio. I’m acting in it and also doing the sound designing which I love. There’s over 40 of us, all working so hard on the shows and developing our skills to ensure it‘s good as possible and produced to professional standards. So, if you’re around - please come and watch, the tickets are really good value!

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