It's such a devil of a job says 50-something Toyah

With a career spanning 30 years, Toyah knows a thing or two about the glamour of showbiz. She talks to Zita Collinson about vamping it up for her latest role – as the Devil Queen.

Toyah Willcox isn't exactly what you might call the shy and retiring type.

Just as well, because for her latest role, as the villainous Devil Queen in Steve Steinman's musical, Vampires Rock, it's PVC all the way.

"I have fabulous costumes," says the 51-year-old. "It allows me to dress totally inappropriately for my age. I've got some really out-there, very revealing designs to wear. My opening number is completely silver and reflective from head to toe.

"It tends to be a lot of PVC, a lot of jewellery and very high heels, but really taking it to the far end of the spectrum."

Toyah's return to the show, a Rocky-Horror-esque homage to the music of AC/DC, Meatloaf and Queen among others, follows the production's sell-out tour of theatres last year.

"The cast all have to wear fangs," she continues. "We've all been to the dentist and we've all been fitted with our vampire teeth. It kind of adds to my lisp.

"We have to sing in them, and eat and drink in them. I tend to forget they're in. I've even driven home with them in and when you go and get petrol you forget. I've walked into petrol stations off the M1 and I've just been stared at.

"I stand in the wings and I watch the whole thing and I enjoy it from beginning to end every night," she confesses.

"It's a good sign. It's got its own originality to it and it's really good fun. There's a lot of comedy in it. Every night is exciting and it's never the same. About 60 per cent of the audience are dressed as vampires or Goths. The whole evening is kind of an event."

With some 55 dates ahead of her, she and her fellow Vampires Rock cast members are faced with a gruelling schedule. Not that Toyah will take it easy during what little downtime she has.

She's off to Sheffield to star in panto over Christmas – while the Vampires Rock tour takes a festive break – and has filmed an episode of Casualty to be screened next month. She is also about to start promoting a new film, Three To Tango, for which she has written the music.

Her career is certainly diverse. The Birmingham-born star came to the public's attention playing Monkey in Quadrophenia in 1979, going on to have chart success with It's A Mystery and I Want To Be Free in the early 1980s. Since then she's appeared on numerous TV programmes from Songs Of Praise to the Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. And then of course, as any parent of an under-five knows, there's her voiceover work for Teletubbies and Brum. So what's the secret of her long career?

"There's a lot going on at the moment," she says. "Do it while you can, that's my motto. I'm so grateful for the 1980s revival. Whether I like it or not, I'm really, really grateful for it.

"I don't know why I've had such a long career. It's an interesting one because sometimes you genuinely feel as though you'll never work again.

"I think being glamorous and visual helps, Madonna has proven you can do it through many decades, but some women find that hard. For Madonna that's a 24-hour job. It must be endless. I'm the same age as her and I know the work you have to put in just to keep your weight under control.

"I live in the moment. I don't live in the past. I'm very proud to be starring in Three To Tango at the age of 51, which I think is a statement in itself. It says to other women that life goes on."

The Sentinel
September 2009