Interview with ex-Hollyoaks actor Toby Sawyer of Chester

IT HAS been more than 10 years since former Chester actor Toby Sawyer turned up in his van as party guy DJ Bazz in Hollyoaks.

Since then he has appeared in Quills with Kate Winslet and had roles in Crossroads, Emmerdale and Casualty.

More recently Toby has focused on stage work and is currently appearing in comedy Company Along the Mile by Tom Bidwell at The Lowry until tomorrow.

Toby plays Stella, a transvestite, who pays George (Dominic Gately) to meet her every Wednesday afternoon in her Blackpool hotel room for sandwiches and a quick flick through the obituaries.

Having played fun-loving bi-sexual, then gay DJ Bazz in Hollyoaks Toby is no stranger to taking on offbeat roles but how did he feel about playing a transvestite?

“I asked myself whether I wanted to do such a role but the script was so funny I didn’t give it a second thought,” he said. “The play doesn’t try to make an issue out of transvestism,it focuses on friendship.”

Company Along the Mile explores the nature of companionship, the possibility of change, and the peculiarities of kidnapping.

Toby said: “Stella is a very present character – one minute she’s being a cow and the next she is very loving – she shows a lot of different emotions.

“Her manner is quite childlike in many respects and it was that aspect I saw as an acting challenge.

“Stella is a man but sees herself as the perfect glamorous woman – it’s up to the audience to decide if she is.”

Despite playing characters such as Bazz and Stella, Toby has no concerns about being typecast for quirky roles.

He said: “As an actor you don’t always want to play yourself so you are led by characterisation and plot lines. Company Along the Mile has echoes of Harold Pinter, it has good structure and leaves it up to the audience to interpret it as they choose.”

With his attention on stage work, combined with his Chester links through Hollyoaks, Toby also offered his thoughts on the late, lamented Gateway Theatre.

He said: “I was surprised to hear the Gateway had closed, I remember going there as a child.

“It’s sad a city such as Chester has no main theatre – there should always be a place for theatre not just for public enjoyment but also for young people.

“Whether youngsters get involved in acting, writing or backstage youth theatre is a great learning process. I hope the Gateway reopens as it’s part of cultural life.”

Company Along the Mile is at The Lowry until tomorrow, 7.45pm, with a matinee on February 28 at 2.30pm. Tickets £10 (concessions £8), call 0870 787 5790 or visit www.thelowry.com.

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