JANE GARVEY: Toyah Willcox is here. Good morning, Toyah. How are you?

TOYAH: I’m good, thank you.

JANE: Still a punk 40 years after your screen debut in Derek Jarman's punk film “Jubilee”. Are you still – I mean how do you define a punk?

TOYAH: Well, a punk 40 years ago was someone that pushed out all the boundaries of conservatism. We were bohemian. We were artists, we were creatives. But also we were living at a time when we didn't like the future we were being presented with.

And I think 40 years on - now, today, we’re in a similar situation and you can feel the pressure building that young people aren't liking the future they're being presented -

JANE: Let's just hear you in your pomp. We have to play this really. This is “I Want To Be Free”. (The song plays) Now, you're in a stage re-imagining of "Jubilee", which we will talk about in a minute, but “I Want To Be Free” . . . How old were you when you sang that song?

TOYAH: I was 23 years old when that came out. The lyrics started at the age 14 when I was at school and it was a symbol of my dyslexia. I just used to sit through classes not fitting in, not being able to keep up.

JANE: And not understanding why you couldn't -

And not understanding why and knowing I wasn't lazy and I used to just write poetry all day long. Then suddenly when I moved to London and I joined the National Theatre, when I was 18, that poetry started have relevance because I formed a band and could use it as lyrics. So the song has been with me since I was about 14 years.

JANE: Do you still sing it?

TOYAH: It is so iconic and I can't tell you -

JANE: Because you’re a big live performer -

TOYAH: I do four shows a week from any audience numbers from 150 a night to 60,000 tonight. And it's an iconic song. It means a lot to people.

JANE: Oh, I know it does.

I only say that because it's come as a surprise to me because we do it in “Jubilee” because the director Chris Goode said the song completely changed his life when he heard it at the age of 12.

JANE: I remember reading Smash Hits and your EP “Sheep Farming in Barnet” -

TOYAH: Oh, well done.

It was reviewed. I remember thinking I must investigate this "Sheep Farming In Barnet". I mean you are a big part of everybody's adolescence actually back then -

Wel,l the the punk movement was gloriously technicolour. It was both political, but it was also surreal and I sit in the surreal. I've never been political. I've always -

JANE: Well hang on - what do you mean you've never been political?

TOYAH: Well, I've always championed otherworldliness because I've always believed in 3rd gender, I've never liked being referred to as female. I've always wanted to be a person and I've been like that since I was a child. I fought against my mother when she used to force me into dresses. So a lot of my work is about the third gender. It's about otherworldliness because I have faith -

JANE: Faith in what?

TOYAH: I have faith that we are all part of a process. We are eternal and I have never ever kept that out of my work and it's always freaked people out. But suddenly to be 40 years on - I'm turning 60 … I believe every decade is a fruitful decade for everyone because we transform and go through so many different changes.

But suddenly to be working with the generation as I am in “Jubilee”, who have been enlightened by what I've done is an eye opener because I've always had to fight my own corner.

JANE: Now “Jubilee” on stage is quite a thing. And I saw it on Friday night and it was, at turns, a baffling, intoxicating, slightly mystifying and very energising. I have to say – (Toyah starts to speak) Go on -

TOYAH: Let's go back to the roots. It's Derek Jarman -

JANE: Yes, well, like many 70’s revolutionaries he was privately educated and a trustafarian type -

TOYAH: Which is addressed in the play (they both laugh) and I can't give you a quote because everything is a swearword -

You certainly won't be giving me that quote -

But Derek's world was an openly -

JANE: Although I like that bit – (they both laugh)

: Derek’s world was an openly gay world at a time when homosexuality was illegal. So the first time I met Derek, Derek was dressed. I was dressed, Adam Ant was dressed - he was with me, but virtually everyone else in the building was naked. And this is reflected in the play, and you referred to it yesterday -

JANE: I did say -

TOYAH: You’ve never seen so much nudity. But that is Derek's world. It is reflected -

But seriously, Toyah, you went round to this gaff and most of the inhabitants didn't have any clothes on -

TOYAH: And they were all male.

JANE: What did you do?

I looked at the ceiling a lot because I didn't know where to look and I didn't know how to react, which is one of the glorious affects the stage play is having on the audience. Because the Lyric Hammersmith has a very intelligent audience -

JANE: Oh, highly!

Who probably aren't used to this in-your-face nudity, which I look on as complete honesty that delivers a huge political message within the play. But the audience are looking at the ceiling a lot, some of them, and I think you might have been one of them on Friday -

JANE: You didn’t know where I was sitting!

I wish I knew because I get to look at the audience a lot. I would love to have seen your reaction!

JANE: To be perfectly honest, you know what? It's genuinely hard to know what to do with your face when you are looking at a lot of nudity on stage. It really is! I'm being totally honest with you.

There’s male and female nudity. Great discussions happened in the rehearsal process about people who were willing to do this -

Because not everybody does -

TOYAH: Not everybody. Ironically the heterosexual sex scenes are clothed. The homosexual scenes are undressed and that's because of the brilliance of the actors. Just agreeing that the scene would be more honest and truthful if they weren't clothed. And all of this happens with a political message -

JANE: That is why I am slightly baffled. What is the political message of “Jubilee”?

OK. Transgender. Safety of gender fluidity. The message is how endangered these people are for being what they are. There’s a young generation out there who need to know that they have the freedom to choose their gender. Choose their sexuality.

You can listen to the interview here


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