BBC Radio Essex
BBC RADIO ESSEX
WITH MARK PUNTER
BBC RADIO ESSEX
WITH MARK PUNTER
MARK: 80's pop star and actress Toyah Willcox is coming to Chelmsford later this week in a new stage show titled “Hormonal Housewives” which explores everything that riles women today and as I discovered it's a show that strikes many a cord.
TOYAH: Yeah, I'd say out of – say we're playing a theatre of 1000 we'll have 994 women and six men. (Mark laughs) This is very much a celebration of women.
MARK: And the men are all sat there with their arms folded I guess (chuckles)?
TOYAH: Well, sometimes. My brother came to see it last night and he said he's never laughed so much in his life and he was crying with laughter from beginning to end. It is a very funny show – but it's about women.
It's exclusively about women – it's a celebration of women and it's a very positive look at women. This isn't a show about grumpy women or a political show about women's anatomy. This is very Chaucerian, it's very naughty, it's wicked and it's very positive. So we're not up there moaning, we're actually up there taking the mick and having a lot of fun.
MARK: Well, that's good. I mean I was going to make comparisons with the shows you've mentioned there but this sounds interesting - this sounds different altogether so could you describe what people will see?
TOYAH: It's written as stand-up, we talk directly to the audience and although it is scripted we perform it as stand-up. We insert about six scenes where we're playing different characters and we talk about - very openly - sex, pregnancy, labour, PMS, lack of sex, competition at the school gates, being bad at the gym, erotic literature.
It's comedy, it's a laugh every five lines if not more and I'm talking about belly laughs. And there's no holds barred, it's not suitable for anyone under the age of 16. You know they probably see and hear things like this every day but it's adult humour.
MARK: Did you have a hand in writing this?
TOYAH: Well, we all play ourselves so I haven't written it, Julie Coombe who is also in the production - wrote it but she interviewed myself and the other actress Sarah Jane Buckley so there's elements of us in it but we don't write it. But the whole thing is – we're sharing ourselves with the audience and it's done in the way to make the audience feel completely included.
MARK: Do you think men might learn a thing or two if they -
TOYAH: They definitely learn a thing or two! (Mark laughs) They definitely learn women can be funny, secondly they learn that women are just as naughty in their sense of humour as men are and they probably learn an awful lot of private parts as well! (Mark laughs)
MARK: You mentioned there the kind of stand-up aspect of the show. Was that something that scared you? Have you done that kind of thing before?
TOYAH: I've never done anything like this before. It's completely different style and it's been one of the most enjoyable jobs I've ever had. I mean firstly the joy of hearing the laughter is priceless. I don't see myself as a comedian but I've done comedy in the past, drama comedy but this is stand-up comedy.
It's scripted so I don't have to worry about where the next joke comes from (Mark laughs) but I'm absolutely loving it! I love the style of it – it's so gratifying in every sense of the word. It's wonderful!
MARK: I suppose it's an infectious thing that when you say something that makes people laugh - that kind of gives you the fuel and the confidence to go onto the next bit?
TOYAH: It gives you a lot of energy!
MARK: Make them laugh again …
TOYAH: I don't lack in confidence anyway but it gives you a hell of a lot of energy. This show is over in a blink of an eye and I'm just looking forward to the next day. It's quite exceptional like that.
MARK: And - correct me if I'm wrong - you started acting before you started the singing career?
TOYAH: Yeah, I was acting by the age of 18. I went to drama school in Birmingham. I got spotted and ended up at The National Theatre when I was 18, working alongside with Warren Clark, Elizabeth Spriggs, Kate Milligan, directed by Maximilian Schell.
So, yes – and I made goodness knows how many feature films before I had my first hit single. I've done “The Corn Is Green” with Katherine Hepburn, “The Tempest” with Derek Jarman. It's just been really really busy!
MARK: And lucky!
TOYAH: Very! Absolutely!
MARK: Do you still sing?
TOYAH: I wrote and performed the song for Patsy Kensit's latest TV campaign and I'm on stage most nights with my band, yep.
MARK: So that's still a big part of your life?
TOYAH: Well, I'd say it's 99%, yeah (Mark laughs)
Photos by PAC Photography
MARK: What about your name?
TOYAH: That's my real name.
MARK: Am I right in thinking you don't yet know why you were called Toyah?
TOYAH: Well, I never will know because my parents are no longer here but my mother said she read it in a book and it was a name of a ballerina but there's an incredibly bizarre coincidence geographically that Toyah is a Red Indian tribe in America in Arizona and next to Toyah lake where the tribe was based is a Willcox mountain. My parents probably knew nothing about that.
MARK: Hmmm, that is very – do things like that generally freak you out and make you think "yeah, there's some other power going on here that we don't know about?"
TOYAH: Well, I think coincidence is fabulously powerful but I wouldn't say it freaks me out. But that really takes the biscuit because that one is just – you know, you can't question it. It's there, the proof has been there for centuries!
MARK: Yeah. Somebody once said to me there's no such thing as coincidence but I don't know … (laughs) You appeared in a programme called (sic) “I've Been Here Before” (the show is called "Have I Been Here Before?" Watch the episode in which Toyah appears here HERE (Part 1) and HERE (Part 2 ) which was all about regression of past life, wasn't it?
TOYAH: That was decades ago.
MARK: What was that like?
TOYAH: It's a long time ago, I'm not convinced. It was a successful show. They found out one of my past lives I was related to my husband and that again was very very strange. But I don't feel drawn to regression. I don't think we're made for looking back. I think history is for schoolkids. But it was interesting, there was something going on there.
MARK: Do you believe it?
TOYAH: I'm not bothered. I don't need to believe it. I don't – I have my very firm beliefs about religion and the regression of the soul. I don't need to believe it but it was very fascinating doing it because there was something there.
MARK: Interesting. Just looking at your TV work, you've been "Dr Who" (Edit: she hasn't, she appeared in a documentary called "Doctor Who - Thirty Years Of The Tardis" in 1993) and "Casualty" and "Kavanagh QC". My probably the earliest memory on the box of you is an episode of "Minder" which is one my favourite TV shows of all time. Do you have any memories of working on that programme?
TOYAH: Well, yeah, very much so! I loved it! Funny enough that was a very quick job. I was only on it for about five days and I was mainly working with George Cole (below with Toyah) – Dennis Waterman is only in one of my scenes. But I remember George Cole was absolutely adorable and a true gentleman. It was fantastic to be on a show that my parents watched religiously.
MARK: Yeah. It was one of those cult shows at the time and part of my growing up teenage years and just latching onto the comedy, the subtlety of the humour between George Cole and Dennis Waterman. It was just a beautiful piece of work and characters like you coming up. Weren't you a villain's daughter or something?
TOYAH: Yeah, I was a moll.
MARK: Yeah, that was it. And some sort of property development thing going on I recall -
TOYAH: Do you know - I can't remember it that well!
MARK: I love the series but I don't know it in that much details. I'm not one of these people that kind of knows every little detail because you want to watch it fresh again -
TOYAH: I keep getting messages from people “oh, Minder is on!” on one of those obscure satellite channels …
MARK: It's been a pleasure talking to you. You're on at the Civic Theatre in Chelmsford on the 23rd of May and it's going to be good. “Hormonal Housewives”.
TOYAH: It's a wonderful antidote to the blues. It's very very funny, very uplifting.
MARK: And Lord knows we need it because I don't think we're going to get a summer in the near future!
TOYAH: I know!
MARK: So we need cheering up!
TOYAH: It's been a wash-out!
MARK: Toyah, pleasure talking to you.
TOYAH: Thank you very much!