(Claire Toeman, today)
On Thursday, October 27, 2005, Donny O'Bryan of the Shock Treatment Network had a phone interview with actress Claire Toeman (who portrayed Brenda Drill, Oscar's sister)about the experience of making the film Shock Treatment. The taped conversation lasted about 25 minutes. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.
Shock Treatment Network: Thanks for letting me phone you. I realize it's late there. After 10 o'clock in the evening.
Claire Toeman: Oh yes. Nearly time for my beauty sleep.
STN: I promise I won't keep you long.
CT: You must be a big fan of that film. I can't believe there are so many fans of it.
STN: Quite a few. It usually evolves from Rocky Horror fans who want a little more. So they hear about Shock Treatment and curiousity gets the best of them. Most like the music first, then the film tends to grow on them after several viewings.
CT: All I can remember is (singing) Denton, Denton... (laughs) That's all I can remember, really. I don't even think you can get copies of it over here anymore.
STN: You can't?
CT: Well, I can't say I ever tried.
STN: You don't own it then.
CT: No, I've never owned a copy of it.
STN: Did you get to see it? Perhaps in a theater?
CT: Yeah, in a cinema. I think I saw it once on video.
STN: I can only wonder what reaction your country had to the film...
CT: I think it got slated.
STN: Well, it didn't do well initially over here in the USA, either.
CT: Yeah, it's a terrible film.
STN: That's a common opinion for many who don't understand it. Do you remember how long it took to film?
CT: Well, it was rather strange for me because I actually was a replacement for somebody who they had already started filming. If you look at the film very carefully, I don't know if you've ever noticed this... The character I play, Brenda, was originally played by another actress. And she got chicken pox. And so they had to recast somebody who looked like her. From what I remember, I went to an audition and they casted me--although I don't know why they cast me other than the fact that my hair was similar to the girl who had been playing her already. I think it was a girl called Robin who originally had the part. I can't remember her sir name. She got chicken pox so they cast me, but I was about half her height. If you look at the film very carefully, there's a scene where she's wearing a chinese style dress...it's not me. It's her.
STN: Yes, I know exactly what scene you're talking about. I said to myself several times, "you know, that really doesn't look like her" but I never realized it was someone else. You're referring to a pool table scene during the song "Looking For Trade."
("Robin" playing Brenda Drill, far right)
CT: Right, it's not me. I was brought in when she got sick.
STN: So you weren't involved it the film making from the beginning?
CT: No, I was not there when it started. I just remember going to the audition after filming was already in production. And...I'm a really crap dancer. I remember we had to dance. I had to audition with Sinitta, who had already been cast. And they gave me the part for some strange reason. So I came into it quite some time into it, but I knew some of the cast. I knew Gary Shail.
STN: That's interesting. I communicate with him online fairly regularly.
CT: Really? Please tell him hello. I haven't been in touch with anyone from there in a long time. I haven't spoken to Gary Shail in...maybe, 10 years. Something like that. But we used to be quite friendly when we were younger because we worked in a film together called Quadrophenia.
STN: Oh, I saw that. I don't remember you being in it though. I don't think Internet Movie Data Base has you listed for that either...
CT: No, I was only an extra. I was a special extra. When you watch it again, see if you can spot me. You might be able to.
STN: And you were in "Moonlighting" with Jeremy Irons. I saw that. You were very good.
CT: Oh well, thank you! I didn't know anyone watched that film either. (laughs) I played the supermarket girl. It was directed by a very strange guy called Jerzy Skolimowski. I will never forget his name 'cause it was such a strange one.
STN: Of course, my favorite film you were in (besides Shock Treatment) was Jack & Sarah.
CT: Oh yeah, that's a nice film.
STN: It's unfortunate that here in the USA, I can't obtain some of your films.
CT: Well, I haven't been in many, really. 'Cause I don't act anymore. I'm on the other side of the camera now. I run a casting company. I am a casting director. And I've been doing that for 10 years. We cast comercials mainly. When I did Jack & Sarah, I was in the process of setting up my company. But in that way, I am still in the business.
STN: When you made Shock Treatment, you stayed to the end? I understand they breaked for the holidays and then did one final week after the new year started. There was even a wrap party at the very end.
CT: Well, I was on it through the end, but I can't remember the wrap party. I guess there probably was one, but I don't remember it. I must have gone to it, but I've got a very bad memory. That happened 25 years ago.
STN: Do you remember Sinitta Renet, who was on screen with you in nearly every scene? (She was the second cheerleader/ballerina)
CT: Yeah, I was quite friendly with Sinitta. We got along really well. I remember I went to her house a few times. I don't think we particularly stayed in touch afterwards. She's just been on a program over here called The X-Factor.
STN: It's similar to a show here in the USA called American Idol.
CT: She is one of the judges on that.
STN: Is she the same singer that goes by the name "Sinitta" only?
CT: Yes, yeah.
STN: Were you close to other cast mates? Like...Gary Martin?
CT: Yes, I remember Gary Martin. We sort of hung out together. But I didn't really keep in touch with anyone afterwards.
STN: I see. Now...since you told me you came in as a replacement, then I assume you did not sing on the soundtrack. I guess you lip-sinc'd to recorded vocals?
CT: Right, I just mimed. That's not my voice. (Thinking back) I don't think it was me. Did they record the soundtrack before? No, I think I must have mimed to it. I don't remember going to a recording studio to do it.
STN: It was probably that other girl, Robin.
CT: It was probably her. Yeah.
STN: Did you get to keep anything from the movie? Costumes? Props?
CT: (Thinking) No, I might have some photos somewhere.
STN: Yes, I heard there were plenty of polaroid photos on the set.
CT: ...but no, no I didn't really keep anything.
STN: Gary Shail said jokingly that he kept everything he could get his hands on. (laughs)
CT: (laughing) No, I was an honest girl. And Gary, he was a bit of a joker.
STN: I enjoy chatting with him.
CT: And you said Imogen Claire passed away?
CT: I didn't know that. I used to get her up for casting stuff, and we used to say "Oh hi" and "I remember you from Shock Treatment."
STN: Do you remember the filming crew? Like Sue Blane, who did costumes?
CT: No, but to be honest, the whole thing is a bit of a blur. It was such a long time ago. It was fun at the time, but it was not one of those jobs that tends to stand out in my memory.
STN: Which of your acting gigs stands out the most as one of your favorites to do?
CT: I did a television series called Comrade Dad with an actor called George Cole, who used to do a series called Minder. That was probably my favorite.
STN: I'll have to find a way to see that. Let's see --Shock Treatment was a sequel of sorts to Rocky Horror. Did you know that going into it?
CT: Yeah, in fact I had done a production of The Rocky Horror Show, where I played Columbia.
STN: I bet you'd be great as Columbia!
CT: Yeah, I did that in a regional theatre.
STN: I would love to see pictures from that.
CT: I can scan some pictures for you if you'd like.
STN: That would be great! As Columbia, you had to sing. Which reminds me: have you recorded anything?
CT: As a singer? No. I don't know how I fell into singing. When I left drama school, I did a lot of musicals. But I don't know why. I was never like a singer type of person. But no, I never recorded anything. I was in a band when I was in drama school. But I never got a recording. We nearly got a recording though, as a punk band. Anymore, I sing in the bath.
STN: Have you ever encountered a Shock Treatment fan before?
STN: I was pleased to find you. I thought it would be more difficult because someone told me they believed you had married and changed your last name.
CT: I married and divorced. I married a record producer. And I've got two children. And listen to this: I've got a movie star for a daughter. She's got a movie which has just been released in the UK, a film called Nanny McPhee, which is coming out in America, I believe, in January (2006). With Emma Thompson and Colin Firth. And her name is Holly Gibbs. She's eight. She is like the little girl, she's got a bob-hair style. She plays the youngest daughter in the film. It's quite a hit over here. It's lovely. It's a family film, but it's quite over the top, but it's not in the Rocky Horror style. (laughs)
(Claire's daughter, Holly Gibbs, pictured 2nd from left)
STN: What can you remember about the other Shock Treatment actors, other than the band (the Bits)?
CT: I got along really well with Ruby Wax. I don't remember much really, other than Barry Humphries was always being sort of swept out the studio in his limo. But I remember being in the make up room with him and he was laughing and joking. He was very nice and very approachable.
STN: Do you mind revealing your age or date of birth?
CT: Well, my birthday is coming up. It's the 14th November. I was born in 1958. I'm 46 at the moment. When making Shock Treatment, I must have been about 22 or 23.
STN: Have you ever been to the USA before?
CT: I've been there 3 times. I went once with my husband--he was working with an artist there. And then my present partner has taken me to the states twice. Yeah, sort of a long weekend. I've got some relatives there in New York so we visit there.
STN: Would you ever consider going to a fan convention in the future?
CT: If it were here in the UK. I love the Rocky Horror Show. And the fans that dress up. I really like that show.
STN: What do you do in your spare time when you're not working?
CT: Well, I'm a bit of a workaholic to be quite honest with you. I guess when I'm not working, I like to hang out with my kids or my partner, maybe go to a movie at the cinema. But I don't have any kind of special hobbies because it seems like I work twenty-four seven.
STN: Claire, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.
CT: No problem.
STN: Thank you very much.
CT: Alright, take care, Donny.