You are here

Toni-Kay Dawkins on Sitting in the Director's Chair with 'Toy Boy'

Toni-Kay Dawkins talks about her new role as director of Basil Dawkins' Toy Boy

Earlier this week, Susumba sat down for a quick chat with Toni-Kay Dawkins about her directorial debut with the re-staging of Basil Dawkins’ Toy Boy. She talks about the challenges, fears and lessons learnt as she tackled one of her father’s most successful production. Toy Boy premiered in 1995/1996 under direction by Buddy Pouyatt (starring Leonie Forbes and Volier Johnson) and has since been twice resurrected by Robin Baston (with Barbara McCalla and Volier Johnson). So, the young director knows that she has a strong history to live up to. The current installment, featuring Christopher McFarlane and Maylynn Walton is running at the Little Theatre, October 5 - 13, 2013.

Susumba: So Toy Boy opened last weekend. How do you feel now that it’s up and running? What’s the reception been like?

Toni-Kay Dawkins: On opening night we got a great audience, in terms of the number of people that turned up. It wasn’t without hitches, but you know, opening night always has its one and two. It’s good to see it up running and enjoyed by the audiences.

S: What made you decide that directing was something that you wanted to do?

TKD: I did not decide it all. I actually had very little to do with it. My father (Basil Dawkins), he wrote the play, asked me if I would consider directing it. I laughed! I was like ‘Hahahahaaa. Hire a real director’. But he said he was serious and that it would be Toy Boy. I had watched it but I didn’t remember it, but I remember the script and I loved the script! So I thought if this is a serious opportunity, I’m there. When do we start? And so that’s how I actually got into it.

I had never gone after directing. But I had helped with a few productions over the years and he’d always said that I had tendencies to direct so I should try it.

S: So now, have you been bitten by the director’s bug?
Christopher McFarlane and Maylynn Walton in Toy Boy
TKD: I think I’ve kind of been bitten by the director’s bug. Which is what I think my father was hoping would happen. I enjoyed the process. I enjoyed seeing the final product. I enjoy the fact that the audience that I’ve spoken to say that they’ve enjoyed it. It’s been rewarding. So, if I were asked to direct again, I would not say no.

S: Have you seen any productions or scripts that you think, ‘I would love to try my hand at that’?

TKD: You know what’s funny? When I see productions, I think ‘Oh wow! I’d love to try to act in that.’ I’ve never really thought about directing, so now this is a whole different twist. The idea terrified me, even now. It’s a lot of responsibility. You have to have that eye for detail, you have to be the mediator.

S: What plays have you seen that you’d like to act in then?

TKD: You know, Sakina (Deer) did a role, at Centre Stage, ... Dirty Diana, when she was the deaf stripper. Come on, what role could be better than that? A deaf stripper? I love the productions at Centre Stage - Jambiz Productions. I really do love my father’s productions - Basil Dawkins Productions, of which I have two favourite plays, Feminine Justice and Which Way is Out?.

S: What was it like working with your cast? This is your first time, but they’ve been doing this for a while now.

TKD: They’ve been doing it for a minute, a minute and a half. It was Maylynn Walton and Christopher McFarlane, both of whom I’ve worked with before when I used to assist Douglas Prout. I used to come in as assistant to the producer, meaning I’d be the gopher.

[Working with them] was amazing. I thought I would experience resistance as a brand new director who didn’t really have a lot of experience in it at all. But they were so open. An I could not have done it without the stage manager, Veronique Smith. It was a really great way to get my feet wet.

S: What if it had been the original cast, Leonie Forbes and Volier Johnson?

TKD: The original cast, oh they would have directed it themselves! I would have come in and said, what you guys feel like doing now? I’ll just write it in the script. Anybody needs water? There’s no way I could have directed Leonie Forbes and Volier Johnson. I’d have been too intimidated by them to tell them what to do.

S: And the fact that it was your father’s production? What did that add to the mix?

TKD: My father is known for pretty good, pretty high-quality productions. People have been supporting him for years, and they’ve come to expect what they expect so you have a level that you have to maintain, and it was Toy Boy. ... So it was daunting taking that on. But Daddy was very, very supportive. He didn’t lurk in the corners and say, ‘No you shouldn’t do that’, he gave me space to do what I thought was right.

S: So, it’s been a short time, but what’s the best thing that’s happened?

TKD: Like I said, I came into this very fearful and doubtful and the entire process was almost like a healing process for me. It opened and people didn’t walk out. They didn’t demand their money back. They actually laughed and they were engaged. That was actually rewarding to see that I had taken on something that I had found so terrifying and see that they’re enjoying it.