Celeb travels

The Irish are the nicest, and the 'Berg is forever: actor Ashley Dowds

On stage in The Return of Elvis du Pisanie, the actor shares memories of his childhood holidays and where he'd take a tourist in his hometown, Cape Town

14 May 2024 - 10:11
By Elizabeth Sleith
Ashley Dowds at a cafe in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on his best holiday ever.
Image: Supplied Ashley Dowds at a cafe in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on his best holiday ever.

Tell us a bit about your role in The Return of Elvis du Pisanie

If you ever saw Paul Slabolepszy on stage as Eddie du Pisanie — about 20 years ago — you’ll remember the thunder and lightning and hilarity of that story. Eddie is born into a specific time in South Africa to a father who had been damaged during World War 2. The tragedy that rolls out as a consequence is not an everyday one but one we can all relate to. Finding hope — for any kind of redemption — can only be dealt with in a way that shakes us into a new way of existing. That is Du Pisanie’s “return”. Once the house lights go down you’re on a rollercoaster of a journey through Eddie’s life and when the reveal happens it sweeps you out of your seat.

Three words that describe my travel personality: curious, unstructured, present. 

I grew up in Durban and we would often go to the Drakensberg for our holidays. What I remember most is the timelessness of the Drakensberg. Giant's Castle peak was visible to me at school in the Midlands and also when we went on holiday as a family. It struck me during 'Berg visits after my mother died that the memory of her had merged into a present moment because those vistas are ageless. 

The timeless views of Giant's Castle in the Drakensberg Mountains.
Image: intsys / 123rf.com The timeless views of Giant's Castle in the Drakensberg Mountains.

My first trip abroad was to Israel because I wanted to volunteer on a kibbutz. The kibbutz was in Upper Galilee, right opposite Hazor, one of the strategic biblical sites, apparently routed by Joshua. It is a series of cities built on top of each other over thousands of years. I used to jog about the kibbutz perimeter, wondering how many souls had sat quietly contemplating this landscape I was seeing on my run. 

The most remote or adventurous destination ever was the salt caves at the Dead Sea or maybe the passages under Jerusalem. There was also a lighthouse at the far western peninsula of Rhodes island, which is cut off by the tide.

My hometown is Cape Town. I usually take visiting friends up to Deer Park to see the Platteklip stream and the Wash Houses. Both have significant histories: Cape Town began as a result of the access to this stream and the Wash Houses open a whole discussion about slavery and the Dutch trade. I'd also find a good spot along the Simon's Town stretch to take them free diving.

A view of the Englischer Garten, a large public park in the centre of Munich.
Image: dimol / 123rf.com A view of the Englischer Garten, a large public park in the centre of Munich.

I was gobsmacked by Munich. It's rich in so many ways besides its towering economy. The Glyptothek museum for a start — its ancient-world sculpture collection is astounding. I also loved the Englischer Garten. 

London is the best place in the world for a night out. It's the theatre scene in the West End I can't get enough of. 

Ireland has the most welcoming, friendly locals, to be sure! You will notice the difference in the way you are spoken to as you cross the customs line from the UK to Ireland. 

I often travel solo. My very first trip overseas was as a backpacker. I had planned to travel with someone but it didn't suit either of us and I found myself planning my own journeys to where I wanted to go — down to the southern Turkish coast where Cleopatra hung out. There are Greco-Roman theatres there that are better preserved than so many of the others you see in the brochures.

My best holiday ever was being in Ho Chi Minh City with my close family, for the wedding of one of our dearest. The cultural shock is intense but refreshing.

• Ashley Dowds stars in The Return of Elvis du Pisanie at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre from May 10-26. It runs at the Theatre On The Bay from May 30-June 15.

Tickets at Webtickets.