Open House with Gloria Hunniford - Panto Special

"A singer, actress, and presenter who has brought punk to panto, Toyah Willcox...

Toyah enters, greets Gloria, and slaps her thigh...

Gloria: You've lost so much weight!

Toyah: I've been touring Calamity Jane for months. It's made me lean and mean!

Christopher Biggins: Her muscles are incredible

Toyah: I have to swing from rafters and I'm thrown everywhere. It's good. And that's just in my dressing room!

Gloria: It seems odd that someone who was always very different...panto seems to be almost tame.

Toyah: You think it's tame to dress like a boy twice a day, go onstage and pretend to be male, and marry a woman at the end of the show? I think it's the best thing anyone could ever do! I know what you're saying. I don't think I would ever have dreamt 20 years ago that I would have done panto. Now that I've done it for 10 years I'm passionately in love with it.

Gloria: You've done it consecutively for 10 years?

Toyah: I think I have. I started off as Peter Pan, and after I got flown into every wall of every theatre in the country by disreputable flymen... Once in Wimbledon, there's a scene where all four children have to fly and we all got wrapped around each other's wires, and we were just dangling there. The curtain had to come down, the show stopped, and the ladders out to get us down.

Gloria: Now, talking about the weight loss. Toyah in the paper last week, looking really good.

Gloria shows the picture in the Daily Mail.

Toyah: I think we all would if we were hanging upside down!

Gloria: When they said 'Will you do a picture nude for The Mail'...?

Toyah: I was drinking in a bar and I overheard the editor of The Mail talking about this photo session, and I said 'Can I do it?'. I like to do things that are a challenge and I got to the photo session and thought 'What have I done?'. It was all men in the room and I was really nervous. I hadn't eaten for about three days to keep the stomach flat. We did about 20 polaroids, the photographer would let me see what it looked like, so I trusted him. He let me see the first polaroid and he made me look so good. I looked better than when I was 20. So I ripped off the gown and I said 'Come on, lets go for it!'. He said 'Excuse me Toyah, we can't show as much as you're showing'. I was really rather relaxed by the time we got going.

Gloria: Were all the girls together?

Toyah: No. We had a closed set. We were one after the other. I heard that Sian Phillips was very happy about it. I think Claire Sweeney was shocked. No one told her it was a nude photo shoot. I tell you why I didn't mind doing it. For the last two years I've been studying life drawing, where you draw the naked body...

Gloria: Oh, that old excuse?

Toyah: I've come across every shape and form you can find on this planet. After two hours of drawing someone, you don't care whether they're dressed or not. I think it helped me.

Gloria: Was it for charity?

Toyah: No! I wanted to do it. It was for me! I feel that, here we are in our mature years...

Gloria: Mature? How old are you?

Toyah: I'm 44.

Gloria: That's not mature, for goodness sake! Talk to Christopher about maturity.

Toyah: Women are looking  really good and I think we have to ring our own bell and say 'Come on!'.

Gloria: So your husband, Robert Fripp, will be getting this photograph up on the wall, 6 by 6?

Toyah: I didn't tell him. I told my mother and she said 'What have you done?'. But then my husband went and bought it on Saturday morning. He came into the bedroom very quiet. I said 'Are you cross?' and he said 'No, it's gorgeous'.

Gloria: So he will be getting the 6 by 6 feet for Christmas?

Toyah: I'll be giving it him!

Gloria: Calamity Jane etc. Obviously you're doing a lot of stage work. When you're doing a musical like Calamity Jane and then you switch into panto. It's quite a switch isn't it?

Toyah: It's incredibly different. Everything I've learnt about comic timing I've learnt doing panto. Normally I'm a serious actress, with Shakespeare and new plays. I wanted to study comedy and I felt that the best way to do it was panto. You're working with these incredible dames and they know everything there is to know about comedy. I'm incredibly grateful to panto for the technique it teaches. The timing. Calamity Jane and panto are very different, but it meant with Calamity Jane I'm much braver with the text. I'm much braver with delivering lines and I think I have panto to thank for that.

Gloria: Do you have lots of songs in this?

Toyah: Calamity Jane? I'm singing all the time.

Gloria: No, panto!

Toyah: Yes I've got enough songs. I've got about five. I wanted to open with (sings) "I feel good...da da da...I knew that I would now". We open with that. My leading lady sings 'Fields Of Gold' - absolutely beautiful. I get to sing (sings) "Once in a lifetime, every man has a moment". 'We're In The Money', some good, traditional songs. The one thing that transfixes children is the story between good and evil. I think any child, up to the age of 75, is transfixed by this story, and pantomime is so fantastic for good overcoming evil. It is when you can hear a pin drop, especially with Aladdin, when he goes into the cave and thinks he's lost. They know the genie is going to appear but Aladdin doesn't. There's this icy hush and I think that's gorgeous, it's very exciting to experience that.

Gloria: When do you open?

Toyah: We have a public dress rehearsal next Thursday, and we open on Friday 13th (December).

Gloria: Good timing. And one day off for Christmas?

Toyah: Yes, but it's enough. You can eat 10,000 calories in that day and not worry about it.

Gloria: You're fine. You never know who might ask you to do another nude photograph in the New Year! You're doing Calamity Jane in the New Year?

Toyah: Yes, I'm back into Calamity. Open in Glasgow on 18th January and then on the road right through till May.

Gloria: Thank you, Toyah Willcox.

Open House - Channel 5
6th December 2002

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