Larger-than-life characters and striking experiences
Our longest serving member, Tony Vokes, recalls some of the more memorable characters and experiences during his 51-year time with WBDS.
“I do recall with great fondness plays like The Importance of being Ernest and Night Must Fall because I had major roles. I was fortunate enough to win the NANDA best actor award for playing Garry Essendine in Present Laughter that we put on at Stamford Hall in November 1983, directed by Beth Hanna, who some current members might remember. And I was lucky enough to be in A Man for all Seasons twice – once as Thomas Cromwell and once as the lead character, Sir Thomas More himself.”
But Tony isn’t only an actor, he’s an experienced director. He tells vivid tales about his one act and full-length directorial debuts.
“I remember especially the first one act play I directed – I won an award for it. It was for the West Bridgford Urban District Council One Act Play Festival which was held at what is now the Rushcliffe School and in those days we had tremendous competition from quite a few local societies that were thriving. I directed This Desirable Cottage, which was one of two WBDS entries that year. The other team was, shall we say, the heavy mob with an experienced director and very strong actors and we were team B so to speak. But we won. I don’t know that Team A was particularly thrilled. Its little instances like that that you remember.
“Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey was the first full length play I directed. I remember the first night, we were down there early and to our horror the heating system wasn't working. It was a winter production and it was freezing. We had to get some of the people responsible for the maintenance of the Swain Hall to come down to find out what was going wrong. They fixed it, but it was barely warm when the audience started to arrive!”
Drama societies tend to have more than their fair share of larger-than-life characters, and WBDS is no exception. When pressed to name a few, he conjures up three remarkable women.
“Isolene Slater [after whom one of the WBDS annual awards is named] was a very formidable lady. She was a great director but you did what she said. You didn’t argue with dear Isolene.
“The redoutable Ev Connell directed quite a few plays, including one of the versions of A Man for All Seasons. And Kay Farnsworth, who was a bit of a mentor to me in my early days, became a great friend as indeed did both Isolene and Ev. Kay directed me as the Reverend John Hales in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. That was a lovely play and a very successful Stamford Hall production. Those directors are memorable because they’ve meant so much to me,” he concludes.
Drama and WBDS clearly play an important part in Tony’s life and while we’ve concentrated on the past, he’s looking to the future and working hard on his next production. May that be as memorable as the others from his past!