BBC RADIO BRISTOL
WITH LAURA RAWLINGS
BBC RADIO BRISTOL
WITH LAURA RAWLINGS
LAURA: My big guest this afternoon is Toyah Willcox. She' going to be heading to the west very shortly because she's going to be starring in a show called “Hormonal Housewives”. It's going to be on at the Bristol Hippodrome and it's touring all around. I caught up with her just to see how the show is going.
TOYAH: (On the phone) It's very very funny and I know that's a strange thing for me to say - I've already done 46 shows of it but it's as written stand-up comedy. There's three actresses on stage. There's the writer Julie Coombe, there's myself Toyah Willcox and there's Sarah Jane Buckley.
We get rid of that invisible wall and we talk directly to the audience about female things – things women think they can not talk about in public, in front of men, in front anyone that they perhaps believe are too intelligent to talk about female things. And what I mean about that – there is so much in a woman's life, women are so diverse. The umbrella under which women stand is incredibly broad.
That's what this show represents. We talk about PMS, we talk about competitive mum's at the school gate, we talk clothes sizes, faddy diets, we talk about being bad at the gym, we talk about trying to find love in old age, we cover everything that women think about but feel are prohibited to talk about. It is a very very naughty show.
LAURA: I know one of the things is about not only what makes women tick but also makes them ticked off. So what kind of things make you ticked off?
TOYAH: Uh, I don't get up in the morning and think what ticks me off. I get up in the morning and think I have a fantastic job, I've got a three hour drive to get there, I've got to do press, I don't deal with ticked off. I deal with what I have to deal with.
That said, this play isn't about what we're ticked off with, it's about how we think. It's not a negative production. I think what's exceptional about this production is that it's all inclusive. It's about the broad spectrum of women. We don't deal with body fascism, we celebrate the diversity of women.
We laugh at the faddy diets, we laugh at the fact that women always think they should look slimmer. We laugh at the fact that dress sizes in different shops are always different. This isn't “Grumpy Old Women” - this is a celebration.
LAURA: OK. Where do think your kind of get and go and up and at 'em spirit comes from? Can you trace it back to certain points in your life, how you grew up, all that kind of stuff?
TOYAH: I have one rule in life. I will not have people with negativity in my life. If people have a negative outlook they never get my phone number, they never see me again.
I just don't do that. I give a lot of motivational speeches and one of the first rules I give is if you have to deal with someone who reflects negatively onto you, get them out of your life. Your life will be so much better.
And as soon as people are dealt with like that or stop being negative … and I probably get that from being born a woman, always being projected negatively, "why aren't you like so and so?", "why don't you do what so and so does?", no time, sorry, life's too short. Get on with what you have. We all have exceptionally good lives. Just look at what's good.
LAURA: Does some of it also come from - when I was reading about you in the early years, one of the things I hadn't realised is that you were born with various forms of disabilities and had to go through series of different operations.
Yet despite all of that and the difficulties it created with relationships and so on ... you've done so many different things! Any one of them people would be proud of but collectively it's been an incredible career. And still is!
TOYAH: What I was born with I grew out of. I was just – some babies are born with things they need to grow into. Er, everything I had was sorted by the time I was fully grown and a teenager. There was nothing long term. Past it I went to an all girl school, I loathed the system, I was never good at exams.
I was classed as dyslexic so I was always being told what I can't do. I only deal with what I can do and think that has to be a law in life. We live in an incredible society and country where this country really tries to help everyone. We have a benefit system, we have the NHS and still people moan. I think we need to deal with and look what we have. Not what we don't have.
I would never ever go and buy and buy a celebrity based magazine on a newsagents shelf because all you read is negative. It's ridiculous, I find it absolutely dull. Absolutely stupid and time is short.
LAURA: What do you find negative? Is it things that you're just never going to have in your own life or that's it's just a projected image that's not perhaps even true?
TOYAH: It's a projected image that your life is nothing unless you have this handbag, your life is nothing unless you're a size 8. Just like that – it's just ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous! I remember watching breakfast TV the other week and Lulu was on and all they could talk about was Lulu's age and the fact that she recorded “Shout”.
They completely ignored the message that she was giving that she - at her fabulous age - is touring America! I almost threw a brick at the telly! I'm just so not into the kind of backward way we look at things. It's just so dull and the women I know have no interested in it either so who the hell supporting this system?
LAURA: Well, I guess in some ways it's fed into careers like your own? In that - you know, people go out and buy magazines and there is that interest in celebrity ... then you are a celebrity too so in some ways you -
TOYAH: I don't live like a celebrity.
LAURA: I meant in terms of being in the public life and people will be interested, I'm not saying “Hello!” magazine necessarily now but what I mean as a part of wider culture?
TOYAH: Yeah, well, that's it exactly! Who's created that culture and why are we swallowing it? I mean everyone who bought cheap food is no longer buying it because there might be horse meat in it, everything is coming out. This is our chance for change. And one of the biggest things I think we need to look at is we need to look at women in a more positive light.
LAURA: So you're still quite rebellious and there's a lot you want to say?
TOYAH: Yeah, I suppose so yeah. I think what it is here I am on the road, working incredibly hard, loving my work, I'm doing something I believe in. One the most positive aspects of “Hormonal Housewives” is that it is a celebration of women. It's not cashing in on anger. Every woman in our audience that we're talking to can recognise what we're saying and what we're doing.
I like to think to that every woman who leaves that theatre feels like they've been recognised. That's so important. I suppose as an actress if I was frustrated by anything it's that when I receive a play for a role for me in it, you know - I'm looking for something I haven't done before. I'm looking for the great playright.
I'm looking for the producer that wants enhance people's lives. I'm not talking about happy clappy stuff, I'm talking about you know - "Wake up! Smell the coffee!" This is what real life is about.
LAURA: You can do everything through arts but would you ever think about going into politics and saying "right, now is a good time, there's a shortage of women in politics" – someone like you. Stick up for people – would you fancy it?
TOYAH: I've not got the brain for politics. One of the things you see when people go into politics – the compromises they have to make, the kind of low level corruption they have to face, the corruption of their beliefs … I don't just think I could do it! I'd go mad!
LAURA: That's not the same as having a brain though is it? That's having different values perhaps?
TOYAH: I think anyone in politics has to know about financial systems, they have to know about social systems. I don't know any of that. I really don't. I just think politics it's something way way past my ability.
LAURA: Can I just ask you one thing quickly? Did your mum and dad meet in Weston-super-Mare?
TOYAH: Yes! My father was in the audience and my mother was a dancer. She used to be in a dance troupe (below) with Max Wall as the main star.
And my father was in the audience and just fell in love with her at first sight and started to follow her around the country. And he carved his name onto the stage door on the pier at Weston-super-Mare.
LAURA: That's romance! Isn't it lovely?
TOYAH: Oh, yeah! It's really lovely! It's a very sweet story.
LAURA: It is and I wonder if it's still there?
TOYAH: Well, we took them both there about 10 years to look for it and we couldn't find it.