Star Toyah's Panto Agony

Toyah Willcox has revealed starring in Sheffield's panto, Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, will help her get through the toughest Christmas of her life after losing her father. The iconic singer and actress is facing her first festive season since her dad died and says she is grateful to be playing the Wicked Queen at The Lyceum Theatre to distract her.

"It's my first Christmas without my father which is a big hurdle," she confirmed during final rehearsals for the show, which opens today.

"It's been a very poignant year and this Christmas will be tough but I'm actually counting my blessings that I have the pantomime because if I hadn't it would be harder."

Toyah, who first made her name in the 1980s with hits such as It's A Mystery, joins a cast that includes Sheffield comedian and radio presenter Toby Foster and one of the UK's best dames, Damian Williams.

And she said she is loving spending time in the city.

"In Sheffield, which is one of these remarkable, versatile, quickly-changing cities, full of energy, I don't get up in the morning and think, 'Oh God, I've got to go to work'.

"It's 'Wow, I wonder who I'm going to see arriving at the Academy or City Hall this morning'. You see everything going on – everyone is part of the life of this city."

She described her accommodation, overlooking the City Hall stage door, as "like having a front seat to OK magazine every night, especially when there is more than one artist on the bill... the squabbles for the best limo, the deafening silence when fans haven't been waiting at stage door, and the roar of the crowd when there are adoring fans waiting out in the winter temperatures!"

Toyah has just completed a run as the Devil Queen in the musical Vampires Rock – another role in which she gets to be evil.

"I'm not complaining," she says. "Partly it's age. This is an actress complaint; women get into their 30s and they're only ever cast as housewives having mental breakdowns or abusers to their children.

"So it's a common theme – the older woman is the wicked stepmother. But I have no problem with that because I love playing it.

"I also think it's a wonderful form of therapy because I can get rid of my demons through my characters.

"I have no intention of playing a goody unless they pay me a lot of money. They really are dull and I don't do it convincingly."

Although still performing music, not least with her band The Humans, Toyah has perhaps become better known for her acting. She has featured in 10 feature films and appeared in more than 30 stage plays, as well as writing two best-selling books.

The Star
December 2009