BBC RADIO 2
BBC RADIO 2
RICHARD: It’s late night Radio 2 and I’m proud to say that I win the bet coz Toyah’s hair is a perfect blonde colour tonight.
TOYAH: And what was the bet?
RICHARD: I thought you’d be blonde.
TOYAH: Alright, OK.
RICHARD: Some other people said, no, lime green (Toyah laughs), burnt orange.
TOYAH: What?! At my age?! That really would be sad! (Richard laughs)
RICHARD: Good to see you, you’re looking great!
TOYAH: Thank you very much!
RICHARD: We were talking about Toyah’s new production, new play what you can go and see, coz it’s suppose to be damn fine. But it’s in Southampton so I can’t make it.
TOYAH: Well, it’s coming to Croydon on round the 19th of May, we’re doing a week in Croydon and then we take a break and we open at the Soho Theatre. On the 24th of July running through till the 18th of August so you can get to see it.
RICHARD: You know all the dates as well!
TOYAH: I might’ve got them wrong but I know I’m in the right vicinity.
RICHARD: Coz you’ve done, hang on, a lot of people think “oh Toyah, she made records” - that’s just a tiny tiny micro cosmos of your career, coz you started playing at The Old Rep in Birmingham didn’t you?
TOYAH: I went to drama school at the Old Rep in Birmingham and then I ended up at the National Theatre at the age of 18. Went on to do movies and did lots theatre and movies before I ever had a hit single. And then ended up as a presenter ten years ago and now I’m slowly edging my way back into theatre and TV.
RICHARD: Coz I remember you doing a one woman – it wasn’t a one woman show, there was some sort of a dispute, this must’ve been a bout 15 years ago in the West End. And you didn’t agree with the dispute so you went on and did the whole show on your own?
TOYAH: It was Carabet and it was an MU, Musicians Union dispute. So we - the whole company went on and did the show without the orchestra. So you had lots of people clicking their fingers in the wings as you sing (sings) “life is a Cabaret, old chum” with not an ounce of music in it!
RICHARD: Fantastic! Fantastic! Now this play has got a fab cast, it’s called “The Shagaround” (below) Is that the right pronunciation?
TOYAH: Yeah, it’s a Southampton technical term for a boy that sleeps with more than one woman. Shagaround.
RICHARD: And it’s got you and Cathy Tyson -
RICHARD: Louisa Bradshaw-White, who most people know as Kira from “This Life” and you all play a close group of friends. Have you bonded off-stage as well?
TOYAH: We haven’t had much off-stage time yet but we are bonding. Rehearsals have been very interesting. Most of the time spent talking about our pelvic floor muscles and how to improve those and shopping and babysitters and –
RICHARD: In this order?
TOYAH: Education. Yes. Sex comes first. And then we get to rehearse. So yes, there is a token man in the company –
RICHARD: Thank you!
TOYAH: And he is more than a token man, he’s absolutely fantastic! Mathew - could you tell me his surname, have you got it in front of you? (Richard laughs) Erm, but this wonderful character spends the whole time locked in a loo where we’ve removed all the loo doors in the ladies and we’ve actually -
RICHARD: He didn’t lock himself in, did he?
TOYAH: No, we lock him in and we enchain him by using our tights from every woman in the pub that we’re in on New Years Eve. And he can’t get out!
TOYAH: Mathew Callum. And he is just so fantastic because all the laugh lines come from the toilet and he only emerges at the very very end of the show.
RICHARD: That’s brilliant, he doesn’t have to turn up till the end!
TOYAH: Oh - he’s talking all the way through!
RICHARD: But he could be a tape!
TOYAH: No, he’s not tape and he has learned the script, he’s word perfect and at very end you get to see who he is. And he is the “Shagaround”.
RICHARD: I’d like to play that! Coz you could read it, couldn’t you? You could do the whole of the paper and then learn the last five lines!
TOYAH: Well, it’s an exercise in listening for him because he’s just completely boxed in – it must be horrible! And in the summer – you can’t imagine what’s it’s going to be like in the heat of the summer for this actor!
RICHARD: Yeah, alright. And it’s a New Years’s Eve Party? So have you drawn on any experience? From old rock’n’roll parties?
TOYAH: I think we all have, I mean every girl has a story heartbreak or a story of being two-timed. And this is about five different characters who all have a different perspective on how men have treated them. And I’m playing a nurse called "Beth" and Beth has been dumped on in the past but she’s incredibly liberated and really it doesn’t bother her that much. And she’s kind of more interested in the next person rather than the last person that broke her heart.
My sister “Sal” has just been dumped and her boyfriend who dumped her is actually in the pub snogging his new flame. And the whole play revolves around her broken heart. And it’s a wonderful piece of writing by Maggie Neville on the different perceptions of love and how women perceive men so differently.
RICHARD: Is she getting her own back then, Maggie? With the pen?
TOYAH: Erm, Maggie’s been very very elusive and enigmatic about this story. She says it’s all completely true but she doesn’t say whether it’s happened to her.
RICHARD: So it’s a yes then probably?
TOYAH: Yes. Whenever we as actresses have queried one of her lines, she says "well, actually it’s a true line."
RICHARD: Somebody said once that more women commit murder using poison than men. Because they want to do the deed but they don’t want the dirty bits at the end -
TOYAH: They don’t want dirty hands -
RICHARD: Yeah, when men dump girls they just think “oh, she was crying - get over it”. No, there’s plotting going on.
TOYAH: Yeah. The whole of this play is Mathew’s character saying you will get over it. "Go and sleep with someone else, you’ll find out it’s quite nice." And that’s such a male perspective isn’t it?!
RICHARD: Probably! (laughs)
TOYAH: Whereas all we women are slightly more intellectualising about it! But what’s interesting is that I think in the last decade or two decades, women have started to adopt a male attitude. No-one more so than Madonna. And Madonna does come into this play and the theory that one can just sleep with men and forget them.
RICHARD: Throw them away!
TOYAH: Throw them away!
RICHARD: Like a dirty used something or other! (Toyah laughs) You’ve played opposite some amazing people on stage in your acting career – Laurence Olivier (below with Toyah while filming "The Ebony Tower" in 1984), Katherine Hepburn. What’s it like playing on stage, never mind the names, we can talk about them later, but compared to like doing a rock gig?
TOYAH: Oh gosh - it’s so different. Well, a rock gig you’re yourself, I feel incredibly exposed doing a rock gig because I feel almost, I was going to say a fake, but that’s not right. I’m painfully aware of my weaknesses when I’m playing myself. I would always prefer to play a character because then you can blame the weaknesses on that character!
RICHARD: You can’t hide behind the band then?
TOYAH: Well, no you can’t … I mean I’ve had some great bands and they’ve never let me down. Every band I’ve had has been a joy to work with but you are still the front person. I feel very vulnerable in that position. Whereas I always act in plays that are ensembles because the best theatre is ensemble work. And I’ve been very very lucky there.
RICHARD: So when you’re standing next to Lord Olivier, or Sir Laurence as he was then, what does feel like?
TOYAH: Well, I was standing next to legend who at the time I worked him was quite frail. And not very well and just recovered, I think, from stomach cancer and was a haemophiliac so actually I felt very protective towards him. And very very aware of his history. And the history is magnificent. The same happened with Katherine Hepburn because I was standing next to a women who not only was the most important female star of the last century as far as I’m concerned but she had had a rollercoaster ride in life as well.
Because she came to the forefront when, erm, Jean Harlow was dying her hair platinum blonde, Marilyn Monroe was about be discovered and here you had this androgynous woman who preferred to wear men’s clothing, being insulted beyond belief by the American press. They used to say she was ugly, her voice was ugly, she was an insult to women and yet she rode that bad criticism to become of the greatest comedic actresses of all time. So standing next to her made my knees shake. (Richard chuckles) She was wonderful!
RICHARD: Can you be yourself when you’re in that company then?
TOYAH: No, I’m grovelling! I’m a grovelling fan in that kind of company. I was completely in awe of Katherine Hepburn. Whereas with Lord Olivier I was a bit more of a nurse because you had to make sure he took the 30 pills he needed to take every half hour. You were very very considerate, or I felt very considerate towards him as a person rather than a performer. Because he needed so much TLC.
RICHARD: So halfway through the first act, he’d nip off, take some medication and come back on -
TOYAH: Well, I was doing a film with him and he actually had a nurse on set who was wonderful and she was very invisible. And by the end of the first day’s filming you were completely unaware and you almost forgot about his needs because he did it without any attention seeking at all.
RICHARD: Toyah’s with us on late night radio, we’ll talk more in a just a tick.
Song “Out Of Reach” by Gabrielle from The Bridget Jones film
RICHARD: Haven’t seen the Bridget Jones movie yet but everybody says it’s brilliant coz it’s entirely different to the book. Am I right? Look to Tara - she nods. Have you seen it?
TOYAH: No, I haven’t seen it yet.
RICHARD: Do you want to – would you go and see it?
TOYAH: I wasn’t interested in the books to be honest. That one passed me by. I was too busy discovering Angela Carter. So, yeah I probably would go and see it, in an afternoon rather than an evening.
RICHARD: You’re still married to musician Robert Fripp?
RICHARD: Who came into this show not so long ago but you’re both such workaholics, how many times do you actually – your paths cross?
TOYAH: Not that often at the moment. He’s about to go on the road in America with Jeff Beck and then he’s going to go on the road with a band called Tool who are like the new Nirvana, in America. And I’m doing this play so we’re not going to see much of each other at all! (laughs)
RICHARD: What your phone bills like then?
TOYAH: They’re quite substantial! Yeah, yeah. But it’s good. We talk every day, there’s contact.
RICHARD: He must’ve seen you present for the “Holiday” program, now if you ever take time to take a holiday, presumably without a film crew -
TOYAH: Yeah -
RICHARD: Where would you want to go?
TOYAH: I’ve got so many places I want to go. I want do Las Vegas, I would like to do Palm Springs, just to see older women there that have had facelifts and I’m absolutely mad -
RICHARD: It’s not only the faces that are lifted!
TOYAH: I know! I just love – I went to a place, Santa Barbara, Robert took me to Santa Barbara about four years ago and even the 18 years olds had had plastic surgery!
RICHARD: What for?
TOYAH: Well, it’s just in some areas of America it’s bog standard and I find it fascinating because they all look the same. They look like Stepford wives! And the 18 years olds were made to look 50 because of the plastic surgery. So I always want to go somewhere where the culture is so kind of kitsch that you just sit and watch the world go by and it’s fabulous entertainment!
RICHARD: Or melt. Coz you can tell! You can tell, something happens. I don’t know what it is, especially facelifts -
RICHARD: It’s not that you have to shave behind the ears every morning (Toyah laughs) but it’s something to do with the way that the face doesn’t move eventually -
TOYAH: Well, it’s the way the lines go upwards rather than downwards as well.
RICHARD: Yeah. You laugh vertically.
TOYAH: Yeah. And you either have nose number one or number five, I mean it’s a standard nose shape as well. Fantastic!
RICHARD: It’s really scary! I mean Michael Jackson, one of the most talented people as a performer and an artist but who’s his plastic surgeon?!
TOYAH: Well, he’s living proof that you must not have it that young because it doesn’t age well does it! (laughs)
RICHARD: You’d never have that done then?
TOYAH: Oh yeah!
RICHARD: Would you?!
TOYAH: Oh yeah, definitely! It’s no longer unusual to have plastic surgery and in the world of presenting it’s standard. You’re expected to have it.
RICHARD: What, even in Britain?
TOYAH: Even in Britain. And the best facelifts are European now because they don’t make your skin look as though it’s, you know, pulled back and you‘ve got your tummy button as a dimple on your chin. I’d say, at a guess that more male presenters have plastic surgery than female.
RICHARD: Hmm ... (doubting)
TOYAH: And what’s brilliant about it is you don’t know they’ve had it done, it’s that subtle. That’s good plastic surgery!
TOYAH: But yeah, I’d have everything done! Why age? You don’t have to these days!
RICHARD: Yeah but one day it may all come severely to grief. Especially if you’re in Las Vegas and it’s 120 in the shade …
TOYAH: Yeah …
RICHARD: Yeah … How did you feel when you found out one of the characters in Corrie was named Toyah?
TOYAH: I was pretty pissed off actually! (Richard laughs) They phoned me, they phoned my office and said would I mind, could they do it? And I said – you now you can’t someone using your name. And they said that it was because the father was a Toyah fan 12 years earlier or whenever they brought the character in. And I thought well, it can’t do that much harm but now I don’t like it at all. (Richard chuckles) My name is been my passport, it’s opened every door for me and I’ve always been very precious about it.
RICHARD: Well, haven’t said Willcox yet. I don’t need to say Willcox, do I? It’s Toyah.
TOYAH: Well, you do need Willcox now because of Toyah in Coronation Street … how many viewers is that getting a night?
RICHARD: Well, maybe! (Toyah cackles) Maybe! A really nice story, there’s one story, coz you mentioned Brian Ferry earlier. What’s the story about you opening the front door of your house to Brian Ferry dressed in bondage gear?
TOYAH: Well, what it was - I was on my own at Reddish House which is our house in Salisbury, Robert was away on tour. And I was about play Gay Pride the next day so I was trying on my stage gear which was black thigh boots with six inch spikey heels, studded top and a little miniskirt.
And there was a knock at the door and I thought well it’s a Sunday so it’s either Jehovas Witnesess which I don’t mind opening the door to looking as if I’m bondage and I opened the door and there was Bryan Ferry and his wife and son. And he just went “Oh, is Robert in?” And I said “no, but come in for tea!” So I had them in for tea and served them tea looking like a dreadful old tart! (Richard laughs)
RICHARD: Oh excellent! I can’t imagine Bryan Ferry being caught out like that! (Toyah laughs) Lost for words. “Oh!” So once the play’s finished it’s called The Shagaround, and it’s in Southampton and moving about. That sort of books you up solid, doesn’t it?
TOYAH: Well, there’s a break in the play where I’m going off to Midsummer’s Dream at Stafford Castle where I’m playing Titania. So that’s from June to July and then I come back to Soho Theatre where we start The Shagaround again for a month.
RICHARD: And then it just carries on and on and on?
TOYAH: Yeah, usually, that’s the busy end of the year, the latter part.
RICHARD: A holiday then. Or do you turn up in Barbados for two days and film like mad and fly back again?
TOYAH: Yeah, you never get a holiday, it’s like bonkers!
RICHARD: Oh great! This restores my faith in TV programmes. Toyah, it’s good to see you again, thanks for joining us!
TOYAH: Thank you!
You can also listen to the interview HERE