Former Sidmouth actor takes prestigious writing role

Actor Nick Wilkes on stage

Actor Nick Wilkes on stage - Credit: Archant

An actor whose career began interviewing Charlton Heston and featured stints on Sidmouth’s stage has taken the top job at a Midlands arts centre.

Nick Wilkes learned early on, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’, after a novel request for help fundraising saw him in conversation with the Hollywood star before a live audience.

He has now been named writer in residence at Malvern Theatre – the first since prestigious playwright George Bernard Shaw – which continues a career that has taken him across the country.

“I will always remember him [Mr Heston] as a generous man, passionate about the performing arts and a true gentleman,” said Nick, who lives in Malvern in Worcestershire.

“Many of my contemporaries were writing ‘begging letters’ to focus folk asking for donations. This didn’t sit well with me.

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“I asked Mr Heston for an hour of his time and set out my interview idea. He happily agreed and we went ahead – a true gent.”

The interview was ticketed, and the proceeds went towards Nick’s fees at the Bristol Old Vic theatre school.

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“We spoke about a great many things during the interview – everything from his political views through to his memories of Winston Churchill and Cary Grant,” said the 39-year-old.

“He also performed Prospero’s final speech from The Tempest – magnificent, especially being just three feet away!

“When asked later by the press why he did it he said ‘Because he asked me, and did so politely’.”

The pair remained in contact until Mr Heston’s death in 2008.

“I have worked alongside other famous names from stage and screen, but he will always stand out for me as being life-changing,” said Nick.

After graduating from drama school, he took to repertory theatre in Sidmouth’s Manor Pavilion, where performing 12 plays in 12 weeks under the late Charles Vance gave him a crash course in show business.

In the course of three seasons, Nick learned everything from acting in a variety of roles, lighting, managing the stage and working behind the scenes.

Sidmouth continues to hold a special place in his heart, it being where he married his wife Anne, and where he frequently brings his children.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re building sandcastles in the sun, or walking the Esplanade in the snow, it’s always lovely just being in Sidmouth,” he said.

Nick has written and produced 11 plays so far, and has high hopes for his new role at the Malvern Theatre.

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