He directed his first play when he was sixteen in a Methodist Chapel. It was “Devonshire Cream“ by Eden Philpots and he says he had the conceit not only to direct but take the lead role and tell the long-suffering cast that it had to be done professionally! After one early rehearsal the Chapel Secretary took Gordon to one side and said, “l think you‘ll ﬁnd it’s pronounced ‘hore’. You don’t pronounce the ‘w’ in whore ” A little later his mum suggested. about a passionate love scene, that he should perhaps kiss the actress on the lips rather than the cheek. Professional it wasn’t but it did make £40 for a local hospital, and that was in 1940.
Gordon joined the Rep in 1982 and played Sir George Smith in Birds on the Wing. Other ‘major’ roles have included Second Rabbit in Toad Of Toad Hall and Mr Witherspoon in Arsenic And Old Lace. Gordon says they call them “wonderful little cameo parts” to hide your incompetence and make you feel better.
After well over sixty years at its Beresford Street home, the Rep got its ﬁrst bar and a brand-new member, Gordon Toon was given the job of Bar Committee Chairman (short for “bar steward”) Gordon didn’t realise until later that he was heading for the most menial and uncoveted job in the theatre. The surprising thing, he says, is that the legend at the time was that the idea of a bar had always been thought of as inconceivable because no one would be honest enough to do it! They had no idea, of course, that at the time, he was quite an experienced drinker which might or might not have been a good qualification.
He did the job for seven years and recalls the adversities of Beresford Street: thieves battering their way ln through the roof, drinks taken illegally into the auditorium, under 14’s in the bar, the stock room crawling with damp and worst of all – barrels in the boot of the car.
It was no doubt the bar experience which caused director, Peter Legge. to choose him and John Cooper for the responsible acting parts of handing out the beer mugs to other “Pirates of Penzance”.
Conversion to Front of House
He converted to Front of House after a frightening experience in “No More Sitting on the Old School Bench.” He was playing the relatively big part of the Headmaster when, a few days before opening night, he corpsed (brain went dead) during a rehearsal. He had to use his script for the rest of the rehearsal, only to faint in the wings before going on for the powerful final scene in the play. Brain Hadley, the director, persuaded him to do the dress rehearsal whilst he himself learned the part. Incredibly Gordon then did the fortnight’s run with scarcely a prompt.
Gordon was also responsible for organising the Art Exhibitions and assisting in the Coffee Bar at Leek Road. He commented that Trevor Barlow was a tough boss but, all in all, compared with acting, he preferred the tranquillity of Front of House.
Gordon celebrated his 98th birthday in April 2022 and we all wish him well.