KATHERINE MACALISTER talks to punk priestess Toyah Willcox about her latest incarnation as an hormonal housewife

Toyah Willcox has made a career out of being prickly, so I was prepared for the punk priestess and her lashing tongue, ready even, willing. But on the morning in question, she was particularly abrasive.

So where to start? “Let’s just talk about the play,” she says. Right, the play, I think rifling through my legions of notes on her legendary career which includes 13 top 40 singles, 20 albums, two books, 40 stage plays,10 feature films and TV shows as diverse as The Good Sex Guide Late, Watchdog and Songs Of Praise.

Instead I concentrate hard on her part in Hormonal Housewives, oh the irony, at the New Theatre later this month: a collection of hilarious sketches shared out between the three performers.

So what’s it about? “We talk directly to the audience about our own experiences, but it’s quite scripted and we play lots of different characters,” Toyah tells me. “So it’s pure comedy and a celebration of women. It’s not political or feminist, but pure joy and very observational. It sets the theatre on fire because women recognise what we are talking about, but it’s very good-hearted.”

Not many men in the audience then? “Everyone is wanted,” she says diplomatically, “but I think what surprises men is that women can be so funny and naughty. Their humour is actually quite Chaucerian which comes as a surprise. I mean how many men go to see stand-up female comics?”

So does the 55 year-old like the stand-up aspect? “I’m not a stand-up comedian – I’m an actress, singer and a writer – so it hasn’t changed my perceptions at all. But it is different to anything I’ve done before and a challenge because comedy is not just about line delivery but how you build up the timing.”

It must be wonderful not to be pigeon-holed then? “I really don’t care!” she tells me bluntly. “I don’t get up in the morning and worry about what people think of me. All I care about is the quality of my work. I just enjoy doing different things which then opens new doors.”

Having lots of different creative outlets must help though? “Yes, but I doubt Tilda Swinton or Judy Dench need lots of different genres. I get offered a heck of a lot of work though so I always think about it because it’s a big time commitment.”

So what are the defining factors? “I choose work if I think it will teach me something and put me in a new light, as well as whether I can do it. So with Hormonal Housewives I liked the fact that it’s a happy piece after this long hard winter.

“Besides, showbusiness is so transient, but I’m not a slave to that, because being creative has to come first rather than celebrity.”

Was her stint on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here a blip on the landscape then? “No, I asked to do it. I think it’s an incredible show and a masterful concept. It’s like nothing else on TV. But I didn’t make a career out of going on reality shows. It was the only one.

“And anyway I never plan anything, I just apply myself to each decade as it happens. As long as I still have an idea, and a passion, I’m ageless as far as progressive ideas are concerned.”

Lucky then that she found the entertainment business, her unhappy childhood being well categorised. “I had no choice. I always knew I was going to do this but it was nice to find like-minded people in the acting community,” she agrees.

Presumably then she advises and encourages other young aspiring actors to follow their dreams? “I rarely get involved with anyone under the age of 20 because I have such a passionate loathing of the system and the sense that I didn’t fit in. I wasted 14 years of my life at school and it wasn’t until I got out that I realised I was capable of learning. I only learn in the workplace.”

Moving on then, so what’s next after the tour? “I’ll be touring with my band.” Festivals? “Not all of them, there are hundreds. But of course, it’s what I do. And I enjoy being on the move – one place at a time – so a different venue every night suits me. I don’t enjoy repetition at all.”

And yet performing a 67-night tour sounds rather repetitious. “That’s the enjoyable thing. Every town is different, with a different culture and sense of humour, that’s what keeps me on my toes.”

And Toyah Willcox is what keeps me on mine.

Toyah Willcox stars in Hormonal Housewives on Monday, April 29, at the New Theatre Oxford.

Tickets are £15-£25. See newtheatreoxford.org.uk or call 0844 871 3020.