Toyah Willcox Panto interview

Perhaps Christmas is the last thing on our minds right now. Milton Keynes is too busy watching the Ashes, panic-buying stationary for the start of their children's term, or melting in a rather overdue heat wave. However, the first stages of this years pantomime - Snow White - are already heavily underway, and, in a baking hot side-room of the theatre, this year's cast are sitting in a neat row, facing the local press. Among them are singer/actress Toyah Willcox and local radio presenter "Big George", my interviewees for the day. 

First off, I ask Toyah, a key figure in the late seventies music scene, whether she feels there are any intrinsic links between pantomime and punk rock. She seems slightly startled by the question - 

"I think the main similarity is that, like with punk, I'm doing something I'm really proud of". 

And indeed this isn't her first pantomime. Throughout her long career she has performed in over ten different pantomimes, including two previous productions of Snow White. 

"The worst thing is learning the dance routines, I try to do as much learning beforehand, and never go into a job worrying about the punishing schedule, I think "this will be the best thing I'll ever do". 

I reminded Toyah that back in 1977 she had worked with Richard O'Brien (another leading star in this years panto) for a movie - 

"Oh my God yeah! We also shot a children's series together in 1994". 

Having also worked with Warwick I ask her if this makes things easier - "It makes it nicer because there are close bonds there. I've never been in a panto where people didn't get along." 

Although she won't be writing any of the music this year, she will be doing a lot of singing she tells me, "I like to do songs that are culturally well known. I might do a Rolling Stones song." 

We move to talk about her favourite part of the play. In her capacity as Wicked Witch, she tells me she is most looking forward to the poison apple scene, "The kids go mad for that bit! Apparently I have a very good old woman's voice." 

Finally I ask her why she chose Milton Keynes "I had invitations to do productions in theatres all over the country, but I chose Milton Keynes because it's a good theatre, and I know its going to be a good production". I think that says it all really. 
 

www.bbc.co.uk/threecounties
September 2005