|Toyah Willcox interview
by Sharon Cook
makes Toyah Willcox happy. And if current trends
are anything to go by, she must be ecstatic.
So what drives this flame
haired eighties icon to do more and more?
We caught up with the
diminutive Toyah, as she slipped on her thigh
length leather boots for her latest stage
And no, not this time on
the Hexagons stage as part of an eighties
tribute tour, but to reprise her leading role as
Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk.
Toyah readily agrees life
is all about new challenges though this
wont be the first time shes done
panto, and Jack is a familiar role.
I never feel as if
Ive arrived, is the shocking
admission from Toyah herself, who is an
accomplished musician (vocals, guitar and
keyboards), actress, songwriter and
With a shy smile she
admits to becoming star struck when in the
company of David Bowie and adds: I
dont feel remotely that Ive
Every stage of life
is about a new adventure. Even as a child I could
never believe that life started at 20, and
finished at 30. The adventure is still on
going, said 49-year old Toyah, Doing
different things is very empowering.
Indeed her career
which saw her bursting onto the screens in the
anti-establishment David Jarman film Jubilee in
1977, followed by a highly successful music
career from the late seventies with her band
Toyah (I Want to Be Free, Its a
Mystery) - has gone from strength to strength.
Acting roles have included
anything from Shakespeare and Minder to Tales of
the Unexpected and now as Billie Pipers
mother in the new TV adaptation of Belle de Jour.
Music continues to be a huge part of her life
she is married to musician Robert Fripps
with whom she conducts a Transatlantic
relationship, so they can both pursue their
But Toyah has also evolved
with such projects as Im a Celebrity, the
voice of the Teletubbies, her biography in 2000
Living out Loud and her 2005 Diary of
a Facelift I had the facelift to
She says life is an open
book, that no one need go digging to find out any
secrets and the best time of her life is
These disarmingly honest
admissions are no surprise when you meet Toyah.
She is friendly, offers us a coffee and then
proffers the packet of mixed nuts and fruit she
is nibbling from: Im trying to do a
bit of a detox at the moment , she grins,
though she looks incredibly svelte and healthy.
Talking of her early
career Toyah freely admits she had not had any
life experience. I was from Birmingham,
then suddenly I was in London. I worked with
heroin addicts, sex addicts; they were all
phenomenal, wonderful people. That phase of life
was so interesting. I learnt to keep my mouth
shut because Id not experienced what
theyd experienced. They were complicated.
Hedonistic. Derek Jarman, he only saw the good in
Work has always flowed in
Toyahs direction, her trademark lisp never
hampering her style: Im very pushy. I
have no pride when it comes to asking for work. I
ring people up all the time.
She has worked with the
likes of Greta Scacchi and Catherine Hepburn on a
raft of high profile films and TV dramas: I
adore telly acting.
Yet despite all the fame
and glamour Toyah is grounded: When I look
at what a life should be, it should be about
happiness. Were pathetic in this country.
People are very hard working, to the point where
a lot of people dont realise if
theyre happy or not. If we had happier
people, wed be a happier society.
For me work keeps me
very happy. Im restless. I like to be on
Age appears to fascinate
Toyah, rather than scare her.
A lot of people say
they dont care what people think as they
get older, you are your own kingdom
at that point.
I think the facelift
changed me. Its given me tonnes of
confidence. I feel more confident that Ive
taken control of something I wasnt happy
working on a project. Ive got two books on
the go, both non-fiction. And the nostalgia tours
well, its a holiday, thats not
work, its party time.
Of Jack and the Beanstalk
with The Proper Pantomime Company Toyah adds:
On many levels I love it (panto). Its
a cultural art and I enjoy it immensely. I love
the challenge of working two shows a day.
I love that you get
three generations of one family in the audience.
And I love working over Christmas. I would hate
to have nothing to do at Christmas. I would
rather do panto than non-stop concerts. Panto is
more like family, you have a wild social time
with the people you work with.
On playing Jack Toyah
said: The challenge is bringing something
to the show and for the audience to go away
thinking we havent seen that
Jack three times. I want to entertain the
audience as if its George Michael playing
Wembley, laughed Toyah.
To see if Toyah pulls it
off Jack and The Beanstalk runs at The Hexagon,
Reading from December 8- January 6.