OUT TO LUNCH

Famous for her distinctive 80s hits like It's A Mystery, Toyah is now more likely to be found letting her "whip crack away" on the West End stage.

Toyah, 45, recently appeared in the second series of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here. She is also the voice that says "bye-bye" to the Teletubbies. Currently appearing in the West End production of Calamity Jane, she live sin Chiswick and is married to Nashville-based guitarist Robert Fripp.

So - how come you and your husband don't live together?
Ours is not a conventional marriage because he lives in Nashville and I live over here. I would prefer it if we lived in the same country, but neither of us are willing to give up our independent lives - it's a bit of a compromise, but after 16 years I'm not sure I could ever give my freedom up. I do miss him a lot when he's not here though - he has a spirituality that has made our life richer.

Don't you worry that you would be tempted to stray?
We talk intimately on the phone five times a day. I don't fear that Robert is unfaithful, because his preferred world is an isolated one anyway. As for me, I am never propositioned because men tend to see me as a battleaxe. But I do hope we will live together full-time when we are older, because I so love waking up with him.

I hear that you are something of a property investor...
My financial philosophy is to buy property, but not to rent it out. I will never be a landlord. I either let my friends live in my houses or I let a family live in them rent-free. Some of them are used for work but I have no intention of selling any of them. They are really my safety net so that I never, ever have to experience hardship again.

What - have you been really hard up in the past?
Yes. My parents struggled financially and when I was at drama school I was so poor that all I could afford to eat was a Mars bar and a cup of tea. It was the generosity of my friends that kept me fed. People like film-director Derek Jarman would say, "Toyah, come round - we're going to give you a meal," and all I could afford was the 27p bus fare to his home. So I really do know what poverty is like and I think it's the most frightening, powerless position to be in. Anyone that profits from other people's poverty - such as landlords - deserve to rot in hell.

So now that you're doing a lot better for yourself, what is your greatest extravagance?
I really like to commission jewellery and art. I even hired a watercolour artist at Reddich House, which was a home I had for 12 years - he was resident artist there for 12 months to paint the seasons. So I think that's quite extravagant, but it is also an investment.

Who was your first ever boss?
It was Maximillian Schell, the German film actor. I was at stage school in Birmingham, when I was called to London for an audition in the National Theatre where he was casting Tales From The Vienna Woods. He was looking at me for a small, but significant role. But I don't think he was ready for what he saw when I walked in. I was 18 with bright pink hair and when he saw me he was horrified and he turned to Gillian Diamond, the Casting Director, and said, "What have you brought me?" Gillian assured him that I was actually worth seeing and, after I was given a chance to prove it, I was chosen for the role.

What was he like to work with - I'll bet it was an experience?
He was a very old-fashioned gentleman - a really gorgeous, beautiful, charismatic, sexually attractive man. I ended up getting on with him very well. I remember when we opened on the Olivier Stage and there was a bomb scare. I was in the middle of my main scene when a man stood up in the audience and said, "I'm terribly sorry but I have to tell you there's a parcel under my seat." Now, as actors, we're told to keep going, but Max suddenly walked on to the stage, took my hand and said, "I have to stop the performance here, I think it's safer that we all leave the theatre now." While the entire audience ran, I just stood there on the stage, with Max holding my hand.

How do you like to relax?
I spend a lot of my leisure time window-shopping in Chiswick High Street - it's a great way of winding down. My work pattern tends to be daytime at the television studio and nights in the theatre, which means the only real break I get is between midnight and four in the morning. If my husband is with me, we find the early hours are a wonderful time to go for a stroll in the area.

What kind of advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into acting?
In my industry, who you know is very important - you should never, ever undermine friendship and loyalty. Make sure you remember everyone you work with - you never know who you will meet again. I remember working with Danny Boyle - the director of Trainspotting - when he had a walk-on part in a play called American Days, starring myself and Phil Daniels. When I saw his name as the director of Trainspotting I couldn't believe he had come so far...

Toyah's new album, Velvet Lined Shell, is out now.

Candis magazine
October 2003
Thanks to Alec Kelly