Natalie Hale catches up with Eighties punk princess Toyah Willcox as she gets her (sharp) teeth into her new role.

Toyah Willcox has never been afraid to do and say exactly as she pleases, and, now she’s turned 50, the former high priestess of punk doesn’t show any signs of changing.

“I love wearing the very dramatic, tight, glam rock costumes and devil’s horns. It’s not the easiest thing speaking and singing with vampire teeth, but they are quite sexy.”

No, I’m not interviewing Toyah about her unusual fetishes, but about her role in the cult musical Vampires Rock.

Hailed by rock’s legendary guitarists Brian May (Queen), Paul Crook (Meat Loaf) and Eddie Ojeda (Twisted Sister), Vampires Rock is a production like no other with a twist of rock, a hint of musical theatre and the greatest rock anthems ever.

The show was written by former Meat Loaf impersonator and star of the show Steve Steinman when he saw a gap in the market to accommodate audiences’ love for classic rock music.

That was in 2004, and since then the show has been so successful that it has toured virtually non- stop and can boast a massive fanbase and ticket sales of more than one million.

“It has a massive cult following, and that following is getting bigger by the day,” explains Toyah.

“People love it because it’s such fun. The dialogue is short and sweet so that the songs tell the story.

“It’s Spinal Tap with teeth,” she laughs.

Toyah stars as the Devil Queen, the long- suffering wife of Baron Von Rockula, played by Steve.

Set in New York in the year 2030, the undead are livelier than ever, especially in club Live And Let Die, where Baron Von Rockula and the Devil Queen reside.

“The baron is trying to update me – his 2,000- year-old wife – for a newer model, but I’m having none of it. I would say ‘over my dead body’, but then I’m already dead, aren’t I?”

The new bride in question is innocent, aspiring singer, Pandora, who stumbles across the club in need of a job.

Cue a host of classic rock, played live by the baron’s hand-picked band, the Lost Boys, and a hint of comedy, as the baron and his sidekick, Stringfellow, attempt to convince Pandora to lose her soul to rock’n’roll.

Along with Steve and Toyah, a cast of superb singers, sexy dancers and a formidable band blast their way through some of the greatest ever rock anthems, including We Will Rock You, Bat Out Of Hell, Since You’ve Been Gone, Total Eclipse Of The Heart, Sweet Child Of Mine and many more.

Add to this an amazing set and breathtaking pyrotechnics, and Vampires Rock is set to thrill audiences during its run in Bristol.

While many shows trim down to go on tour, Toyah assures me that the Bristol Hippodrome will host the entire production, with full cast and set, so that audiences will have the complete Vampires Rock experience.

“It’s one of the largest – if not the largest – touring one-night shows. There are two artic lorries involved because they are touring full lighting, full PA, stage sets, all the pyrotechnics... it’s massive.

“Then, of course, there’s a full rock band on stage as well as many dancers and actors.

“What I like about it is that it doesn’t cut any corners. It’s a massive show, full of fire and explosions, and it’s always performed at full throttle wherever we go.”

Like Vampires Rock, Toyah herself has always liked to go full throttle. She is, by her own admission, “a bit of an attention-seeker” and a workaholic.

During her 20s, Toyah was the most outrageous and most successful punk rocker of her age, with her shock of bright pink hair and trademark lisp.

She first became well- known through her appearancesin Derek Jarman’s 1977 film Jubilee and 1979’s Who-inspired Quadrophenia, launching her as a provocative anti- establishment figure.

Fronting a band known as Toyah, her singing career took off in 1981 when she scored hits with It’s A Mystery and I Want To Be Free.

She continued to knock out the hits before becoming a well-known face on stage and television, performing Shakespeare and presenting such diverse TV shows as Songs Of Praise and Good Sex Guide Late.

In 2003, she took time out to survive 12 long days and nights in the Australian Jungle for the ITV reality series I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! After the show, Jonathan Ross commented that she looked so awful she shouldn’t be allowed to appear on television.

Instead of being angry, she agreed and booked herself in for a facelift.

“In this business, I accept that 95 per cent of it is about how you look,” she says. “That’s just the way it is.”

Whether it’s down to a nip and tuck or not, Toyah certainly seems to be in more demand than ever at the moment. As well as the countrywide tour of Vampires Rock, she has also just released her latest album, In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, is writing material for other artists and recently appeared in the second series of TV’s Secret Diary Of A Call Girl alongside Billie Piper.

“Variety is the spice of life!” she exclaims. “I’ve always fought shy of ending up in just one thing because your feet get stuck in the mud and you get boxed in.

“Vampires Rock is something completely new to me and I’m having a ball,” she adds. “In these times of hardship and recession, I just think that this show is a real cube of sugar. It lightens people’s lives, and that is something we all need.”
October 2008