The opportunity to raise the roof with a riotous performance has never escaped Toyah Willcox, as audiences at The Alban Arena pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, will soon see as she takes on the role of the Wicked Queen.
“I let rip whatever I do,“ Toyah says. “I give 110 per cent, which can be a problem or it can be beneficial. If you’re playing a baddie you need to have the right to bring the darkness in. You have to demonstrate the difference between good and evil; light and darkness.
“I do like the fact I that can scare people. Wanting to be liked, telling jokes or trying not to offend, that’s not for me.
“My baddie is so vile, I’m so horrible to Snow White it makes the audience motivated. If they shout out things like I really hate you, I think, well, I’ve done my job properly then.“
It’s good to see Toyah’s still as feisty in her 50s as she was in her late teens when she bounced onto the punk scene in Derek Jarman’s 1977 play Jubilee. She went on to play Monkey in the legendary film Quadrophenia and made her debut as a singer with the single Victims of the Riddle and Sheep Farming in Barnet. Hit singles followed with It’s A Mystery, I Want to Be Free, Brave New World and Be Proud, Be Loud, Be Heard, plus the platinum albums Anthem and the seminal goth album The Changeling.
At 53, Toyah has been touring pretty much solidly for the past five years. This year she embarked on a UK tour titled From Sheep Farming To Anthem 2011 to mark the 30th anniversary of her most successful album. She also did a UK tour as a member of The Humans with guitarist Chris Wong and percussionist/keyboard player Bill Rieflin, to promote their second album, Sugar Rush.
Toyah will perform a handful of special live dates in spring 2012, which celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Changeling and Warrior Rock.
Given her prodigious output, I ask if she has any favourite songs she likes to perform. “They tend to be ones that audiences don’t want to hear,“ laughs Toyah. “Love is The Law from 1983 is my favourite album. I also really like 21st Century Supersister and Fallen, the song I co-wrote with Yomanda.
“As a writer, I’m constantly working on new music, but I don’t want to ignore my back catalogue and next year is the pivotal 30th anniversary for It’s A Mystery, I Want To Be Free, and Thunder In The Mountains, so I’ll revisit all that stuff.“
For her Alban Arena performance, Toyah will be singing someone else’s songs for a change, she’ll perform The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black and Sympathy for Devil, plus a Deep Purple number. She’s also looking forward to the chance to stay in one place for a while.
“Not carrying suitcases about or spending hours on a tour bus will be very nice. This is ensemble work, so it’s all about the team.
“Panto is a a very British tradition and it’s when families start their Christmas. We want them to think wow, I’ve never seen anything like that.“
Toyah doesn’t want the audience to stay silent either.
“We want your opinion; tell us what you think. To me, pantomime is comparable to Shakespeare because the whole event is about getting comment from the audience.
“A good piece of storytelling can take the audience’s breath away and give them a voice as well. Snow White has romance, chivalry, diversity and good overcoming evil and its done in very beautiful and funny way; it's hard not to laugh out loud."
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is at The Alban Arena, Civic Centre, St Albans from December 9 to January 1. Details: 01727 844488, www.alban-arena.co.uk