TOYAH, TOYAH, TOYAH...

No, it's not a Japanese battlecry - it's simply the enthusiastic chant any group of Ms. Willcox's fans would be familiar with. Toyah is a multi-faceted gem, who shines brighter than most, and for many reasons. Take her career, for instance, outside the role of colourful, energetic hit-maker. Film actor, stage, TV, equally loved by the male population and a beacon of inspiration for the girls.

From what was described as an 'unproductive school life' her course soon became clear when, at the age of 19, after attending the Old Rep Drama School in Birmingham, she landed a part in the acclaimed director Derek Jarman's film, a milestone in punk history, Jubilee. That was in 1977, and before the year was out, with punk exploding throughout the flaccid music industry, she had put together her own Toyah band. Even as the band developed during 1978, she still landed choice parts on screen, starring alongside the legendary Katherine Hepburn in the movie The Corn Is Green, with another role in the BBC production of Quatermass with John Mills, and then as the memorable character, Monkey, in the mod classic, Quadrophenia. With her 1979 single, Victims Of The Riddle, Toyah and her band were now making significant inroads into the independent charts - and you can't get more significant than the number one slot. The album Sheep Farming In Barnet, plus a six-track EP added fans by the thousand. But the thespian in Toyah was still in demand, as Mr. Jarman booked her again, this time for Shakespeare, no less, and the film version of The Tempest. For her role as Miranda, the Evening Standard nominated Toyah as best newcomer. She appeared at the ICA in Stephen Poliakoff's American Days and starred with David Hemmings in the BBC's Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.

And all the while her recording career developed with equal success. Bird In Flight and Ieya brought her towards a more mainstream audience and by the end of 1980 her album Toyah! Toyah! Toyah! proved once and for all to music fans that here was a new force to be reckoned with. She soon became a household image and a top five entry with 1981's It's A Mystery. I Want To Be Free also went top five, and her album, Anthem, made number 2 in the charts. 1981 was a glittering year, topped off with Toyah's New Year's Eve concert being screened live on The Old Grey Whistle Test. 1982 gave us more great albums, such as Brave New World (sic) and The Changeling, plus a double live collection entitled Warrior Rock. This was also the year that the Rock & Pop Awards (now The Brits) voted Toyah their Top Female Artist.

Her dramatic work on stage and screen has continued apace in tandem with her ever-busy recording schedule. In 1987 she starred alongside Wayne Sleep in Cabaret, worked in radio drama for the BBC and even trod the hallowed boards of the National Theatre. Her quest for musical innovation was amply rewarded with critical acclaim for her album Prostitute, and with her husband, the legendary guitarist Robert Fripp, she toured Europe as the 90's dawned with a new band. More movies, more stage works - always of discerning quality - Emile Zola's Therese, for instance, continued to remind Britain what a talented treasure Toyah really is.

Tonight, as you will experience, this stunning woman's energy remains at it's peak. Take some great stagecraft, superb music, and stir in some genuine drama - and Toyah's the name!

By Rob Bainton

Here And Now Tour Program
April 2002