FROM PUNK TO PANTO 

What's On magazine's Emily Jane-Clark caught up with former punk chick Toyah Willcox whis set to star in the new panto at Milton Keynes Theatre 

Toyah Willcox may be in her late forties but there is something quite childlike about her. A self-confessed sweet addict, her unstoppable energy and enthusiasm remind me of a child always on the lookout for the next adventure! She even describes herself as a hyperactive kid and has no plans to retire anytime soon. 

Toyah has been working in showbusiness since the age of 17. She went from punk rebel to actress to TV presenter and has now become a much-loved household name. Her career has been a long and varied one and her work an eclectic mixture of punk rock, panto, experimental theatre, West End shows, reality TV and presenting. And at 47 she is showing no signs of slowing down. 

Toyah is all set to star in a brand-new panto Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Milton Keynes Theatre this December. 

She enthused: "I play the Wicked Queen and it suits me! She is a fabulous fantasy character who everybody knows. It's great being able to be as rude as you like. But most of all it is good because it doesn't matter what mood you are in. If I am happy then I am funnier and if I am in a bad mood then I am scarier!" 
Toyah has been doing pantmime for the past twelve years now but hasn't lost her passion for it. 

She explained: "Some of the reasons I keep on doing it are purely selfish! One is that I absolutely loathe the Winter and panto takes away two months of it. The other reason is that when I am doing panto I can eat exactly what I like and not put on any weight! Which is good because I love sweets. But I also love that you can look into the audience and see three generations of families there. It is traditional British story-telling at its best with goodies and baddies!" 

Toyah believes that more and more actors are getting involved in panto now because there is far less snobbery about it. 

She said: "When I was in my twenties I would never have imagined doing panto, but now the whole concept has changed. People didn't want to do anything else but straight acting then. Now you get great actors like Simon Callow and Ian McKellan doing pantomimes. Actors now see that by doing panto it gives them the chance to show off their other talents like singing or dancing." 

Although Toyah is more recently known for her work in musical theatre she has worked alongside many great actors including Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn and starred in the hit cult movie Quadrophenia. She feels the secret to a successful career is being pro-active. 

"I have never waited for the phone to ring or ever sat on my laurels. I have always got something on the go or trying to come up with new ideas. I know some actors wouldn't dream of looking for their own work but if I see something that looks interesting I'll ring up and see if I can get involved." 

It was this determined attitude that won her a place in I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. 

She explained: "I just phoned them up and asked if I could do it. If I hadn't they wouldn't have dreamt of asking me. The only thing I regret is not having done more starvation training. If I don't eat I get very sick and they practically starved us from day one. The worst thing was the boredom though but there were also many good things about doing it." 

Not only is she an accomplished actress and singer but the former chart-topper also wrote a novel Diary Of A Facelift about her experience of cosmetic surgery. 

She explained: "I always knew I'd have surgery if I needed it, even in my twenties. I had got to the stage where I would wake up in the morning after a good night's sleep and feel fantastic but looked in the mirror and looked ill. But I found it so hard to find out any information or patients' points of views. 

"I wrote about my experience to help people who feel as strongly as I did about having surgery." 

Toyah says she may eventually have more sugery in the future but she puts her youthful, healthy figure down to a good diet. 

She said: "I don't drink or smoke. I used to in my twenties but I don't feel the need for it now. I also have a non-dairy diet. I think as you get older it is better to go on to soya milk. As long as you get your calcium elsewhere." 

A keen astrologer with a passion for art and ceramics, Toyahis too busy working to spend much time relaxing. 

She said: "I am constantly working on new projects. I can be on the email until four in the morning sometimes. But it's OK because I love what I do and so don't find it stressful. My job is an adventre!" 

After 30 years in showbusiness Toyah is still brimming with enthusiasm and excitement about her work and is constantly looking for new projects. 

She said: "I never stop learning. I don't believe in retirement. You can change jobs or interests but my body's just not made for stopping!" 

What's On Anglia
December 2005
Thanks to Katy McAleese