JUSTIN: In a career spanning 30 years, she probably would not like me to say this: Toyah Willcox has had 13 Top 40 singles, recorded 20 albums, written two books, she's been in over 40 stage plays, made 10 feature films, presented “Good Sex Guide Late”, “Watchdog” and “Songs Of Praise”. That's an introduction isn't it, Toyah? (silence) Are you there?!
BBC RADIO MANCHESTER
WITH JUSTIN MOORHOUSE
TOYAH: (on the phone) 35 years and I don't mind people saying it!
JUSTIN: How many years?!
JUSTIN: 35 years!
TOYAH: I started when I was 17 and then, yeah and I'm 55 this year so I think that's about it!
JUSTIN: That's fantastic! And 35 years ago was "Jubilee" (Toyah as "Mad" below), the Derek Jarman film wasn't it?
TOYAH: Yeah, something like that! It's too long ago to remember! (laughs)
JUSTIN: Too long to remember! So Toyah, before we talk about your next project, simple question then – 17 years old, thrust into this most exciting of times, the punk explosion, you're in this film which is a seminal part of the entire thing, your world gets upside down! 35 years later, what's the biggest difference?
TOYAH: I think the biggest difference is I wish I knew then what I know now -
JUSTIN: Well, you would've not done the same would you?
TOYAH: I would've done it with more confidence. I mean the one thing that no-one ever says that's fantastic about being older is what you know – you have more to give, it's absolutely brilliant. I'm a much happier person now also. I don't take rubbish from anyone and back then I was quite heavily influenced by people and now no-one influences me.
I think that's an age thing - you stand very much on your own two feet as you get older. But I wish if anything that I could go back to 17 and knowing what I know now because I would've really kicked the butts of everyone I met. Everyone always gives you their advice when you're very young. When you get to my age you've got all the advice you need and that's your life experience.
JUSTIN: Of course. Someone like you Toyah, it's clear as a nose on anybody's face that you're a creative person, you know, you couldn't do what you do which is act and write and perform and sing and everything else you've done plus your images have changed over the years completely from one thing to another because you control them yourself -
TOYAH: I'm not sticky with an image, I get very bored with an image. And also at my age you've got to be a little careful of what you do -
Photo by Damon King
JUSTIN: Oh c'mon! (Toyah laughs) There's nothing sadder than seeing Toyah in a twin piece or whatever they call it (twin set= matching cardigan & skirt) What's the colour?
TOYAH: You know - I just don't want to bare too much flesh at my age – let's put it that way.
JUSTIN: I'm sure you're still colourful and all that aren't you?
TOYAH: Yeah, I have lots of stage outfits. Big costumes, big head dresses. But they're more appropriate for who I am now and there's absolutely no way I'm going to run around in a miniskirt baring my legs.
JUSTIN: If Toyah Willcox is not doing it, I'm not doing it either! (Toyah laughs) You're latest thing is a play, “Hormonal Housewives”?
TOYAH: Yes, we've been on the road for a month. It's an absolutely fantastic massive hit! I think the success of this show is it's joy, from beginning to end. It's not political, it's not feminist, it worships women and worships men in a rather strange modern way. The language is very fruity, it's very Chaucerian.
I would say if you've got any children below 16 do not bring them – it's too adult. But it's an absolutely joy, it's a laugh every five seconds. And the laughs are aching belly laughs. There's three of us on stage, three actresses, we're all playing ourselves but we also do sketches where we play 6 characters. It's very very funny!
JUSTIN: Who's written it Toyah?
TOYAH: It's written by Julie Coombe (below on the right) who is also in it. I think she's very much the star of it even though all three of us are very prominent. We never leave the stage, it's 216 pages of dialogue. Julie has written it, it's incredibly observational. I'm staggered how the audience react to it – we do one scene about a coat size and I never thought clothes sizes were that important to women, it burns the house down. The reaction is enormous! Women just recognise themselves in what Julie has written.
"Hormonal Housewives" rehearsals
JUSTIN: For you, you're famous, we know this about you Toyah – somebody comes to you with a play like this – how often do you get things like this and read them and go “ohhh, they just want me to do this to sell a few tickets!” And then something like this has obviously really affected you - “I want to do this”?
TOYAH: That's a very good question. I get about 2-3 scripts a week where I'm just obviously not right for it and it is that thing – people want bums on seats, "we'll send it to Toyah." What I really liked about this play is it's done as stand-up, we don't have what we call the invisible wall between the stage and the audience -
JUSTIN: Break the third - the fourth wall, darling!
TOYAH: We break the fourth wall – we talk directly to the audience and they talk back and it's done as stand-up and I've never done that. As a singer, as a performer with my band obviously that fourth wall isn't there when I'm singing and you get a lot of chanting and a lot of shouting back at you as a singer but my response doesn't have to be within a characterisation or within a play, with this “Hormonal Housewives”, even when I'm playing myself – what I do has to be in relationship to the play.
And the timing of comedy and setting up the jokes is two pages before they actually happen and I love it! It's a brain teaser, it's really rewarding. We've done about 30 performances so far and they go in five minutes – I just don't know where the evening goes! It's a complete indication of how enjoyable it is!
JUSTIN: It is, definitely. I'm a stand up comedian, that's what I do when I'm not standing in here on a Bank Holiday Monday and if you kind of come off stage and go “I've finished!”, I set my watch - you run out time – if you're enjoying yourself, everybody is enjoying themselves!
TOYAH: And you get a lot of energy from laughter. I come off stage feeling totally invigorated. The bigger the laughter just the greater you feel. I'm used to applause but I think I've grown a bit jaded to applause. With this the laughter is like currency in the bank, it's a really wonderful feeling.
JUSTIN: If they're not laughing you're not doing it right, that's the thing about comedy, it's instant isn't it?
TOYAH: I've done some terrible faux pas in this, some terrible Freudian slips with my lines and the audience love it even more! So you're in a win-win situation and even when I've got lines completely wrong and they've come out as complete malapropisms, you're just in a win-win situation and the other two actresses say “pardon, didn't you mean to say this?”
JUSTIN: Do you know what the secret is Toyah? The mistake people make and they do this a lot in Panto as well, they'll make a cock-up and it will bring the house down and then they try to repeat it the night after but you can never replicate that moment of spontaneity, can you?
TOYAH: And you can't replicate the audiences. We're in a different town each day and there's absolutely no way we'd treat every town the same because they're not. They are totally different.
JUSTIN: You're going everywhere, you're in Wolverhampton this week which isn't too far for you, homeground basically isn't it?
TOYAH: I live 40 miles from Wolverhampton which is really a cough and a spit away for me. It's fantastic.
JUSTIN: Good luck with it, enjoy it won't you?
TOYAH: Everyone is welcome and we will enjoy it!
JUSTIN: Fantastic! Lovely to speak to you, we'll see you very soon!
TOYAH: Thank you very much, bye bye!
JUSTIN: Bye bye!