A state of wedded bliss

Love and marriage - and Toyah!

A loss of identity is not something you would normally associate with the individualistic Toyah Willcox, once dubbed "the princess of punk". But, as Examiner feature writer Val Javin discovered when she met the actress and singer at Sheffield's Lyceum Theatre, it was a problem she had to face after marrying rock musician Robert Fripp. From Sheffield Toyah's next stop in a production of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus is Bradford's Alhambra in November.

Marriage suits Toyah Willcox - until the bank manager asks to speak to her husband!

It is the only note of dischord in an otherwise harmonious chat about the wedded state. And in particular about Toyah's own state of wedded bliss. Married to musician RobertFripp she may be, Toyah Willcox, individual, she remains.

No one had warned Toyah about the loss of identity which banks, insurance companies and the like presume a bride accepts along with her wedding ring.

"I reacted very badly against it. I didn't like bank managers saying I had to have a joint account or saying 'Hello, can I speak to your husband?'

Spiritually Based

"I just didn't expect it," she says with a grin. But that didn't mean she accepted it.

"We have seperate accounts, seperate lawyers, seperate accountants! Our marriage is a very spiritually based thing which is nothing to do with material things."

Toyah is in Sheffield, hard at work on a production of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus playing Constanze, wife of Mozart. Robert is in New York.

It is not a situation she would have chosen.

"We don't enjoy being apart. It gets harder to be apart because we have grown closer."

They married five years ago and the partnership which may have seemed unlikely to some - the marmalade-haired actress and singer once dubbed "the princess of punk" and the professor of rock -goes from strength to strength.

The couple did after all, have royal approval!

"We were introduced by Princess Michael of Kent at a rock industry lunch in aid of Nordoff Robins Music Therapy.

We didn't meet again until the following year when Robert asked me to work with him on a record for an American children's charity.

He said that as soon as he saw me he knew that I would be his wife," she says, pure pleasures splitting her delicate features from ear to ear.

What's more he proposed within a week. Toyah attempted to be a little more circumspect.

"I said surely we should try this out and live together. He just got a bottle of champagne out of the fridge and said 'okay'." For "okay" read "marriage".

Toyah today is a brimmingly happy lady. Her relationship with Robert clearly central to her life.

"He's been a remarkable influence on my life. He's helped me deal with a lot of adverse things in my nature."

And her influence on Mr Fripp?

"Intellectual people live in their head a lot and I think I've helped him come down to earth and live life a lot more!"

She admits that outside the world of music and work they have very different interests. "I would rather do an assault course as a form of relaxation and he would rather read a book. He can read all day but that would be enough to make me slit my wrists."

Not that she has time to worry about how to fill any days they may be apart.

The Compass Theatre production of Amadeus is a highly complex one. The cast is totally involved and not just in acting.

"We are moving scenery as well. We are taking it in turns when we are not on stage to move parts of the scenery. It's not just a case of remembering your lines but whether or not you are supposed to be moving scenery!"

Her Best Critic

The role of Constanze, Mozart's wife and most loyal supporter, has proved quite a challenge. History's view of her appears to be that she is all but invisible.

"In Mozart's letters to his wife she is not even named. There is only one book in existence about her life and it's out of print. It can only be got from a library in Surrey and when I went, somebody had taken it out - for the first time in 20 years."

Her view of Constanze is a clear one. "Mozart was obviously totally dependant on her being there. She's his best critic and supporter, the person he can talk to. She can deal with the mundane, she can manage him."

Just as clear is her view of the other woman she is preparing to play during the Compass tour, a woman much less able to cope than Constanze.

Toyah will be working in a series of prisons performing a one-hour, one-woman show based on the short and tragic life of rock star Janis Joplin.

The show is packed with Joplin's songs and tries to put her life and the pressures she faced into perspective. As Toyah points out, Joplin faced the "so-called sexual liberation of the Sixties" plus a host of other temptations. "It was like letting a child loose in a candy store."

Almost too much then to occupy her mind and her time. How many more weeks before husband Robert is due back from America?

"He will be back in England in two weeks' time and I will be happier then. We seem to be working from 11am to 11pm at the moment and if he were here I wouldn't be able to give him the time he deserves."

Both seem acutely aware of time and the need to look ahead. In the New Year they will be working together in America on an album, plus a tour.

Robert enjoys a massive reputation in America partly because of his work with King Crimson as well as with Brian Eno and David Bowie.

"Where he's been brilliant is that in every interview, he's given the person an album of mine and said 'You should review that'

Then after a pause and a hoot of laughter: "I don't think I'd have done the same for him."

Huddersfield Daily Examiner
24th September 1991
Thanks to Jenny Parkin