A Quick Chat With Toby Francis

Toby Francis. Image by Blueprint Studios
Toby Francis. Image by Blueprint Studios

Acclaimed cabaret artist Toby Francis returns to the stage for one night only on Monday 19 November at The Basement to present his latest show The King Is Dead: Long Live Queen.

Big, boisterous and unapologetically camp this new cabaret takes the iconic music of Queen and weaves it between ruminations on childhood, self-doubt, and inspiration. Toby says it's halfway between cabaret and a rock show, and far from your typical songbook cabaret.

We ask Toby our 20 Questions…

1. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

Older. I went through phases where I wanted to be a cop, a writer, an actor, a soldier but, I think, all I really wanted to be was older.

2. Who is the most important person in the world to you? My partner Lauren. I’m pretty co-dependant, I rely very heavily on the people who are close to me, on the people I love, I burden them with my neediness. But she’s it, she’s everything. The other day she left for the weekend to see family and I was a miserable shit, I was just immediately lonely and sooky. I’m useless without her.

3. What animal best represents you and why?
A dog, because they don’t know how to write a clever answer to this question either.

4. If you were a contestant on Deal or No Deal, how much would you need to be on offer before you walked away?
50c and a night of snuggles with Andrew O’Keefe.

5. What was the first piece of theatre/film/TV you ever appeared in and how old were you? I was Edmund in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when I was 13.

6.    Windows or MAC?

7. Favourite food?
I’m a sucker for Eggs Benedict with Ham. But when I’m not eating the world’s weight in calories, it’s Grilled Salmon and Pepper.

8. Who is the actor you would most like to work alongside?
It’s a toss up between Tom Hardy, Idris Elba and Tommy Wiseau.

9. What five songs would be the first you put on a mixtape?
[For context, I’d probably be making a mixtape to listen to as I was going to sleep]

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow – Rooney
Glorious – Spook
Whispering Grass – The Ink Spots
Four Walls – Cold Chisel
Motherlove – Queen

10. What is the best thing about theatre in Australia?
It’s a pretty tight knit community, everyone knows everyone and will share a d

rink and a joke after whatever show it is that everyone is at. I really love that about theatre in this country, that the people are nearly always nice.

11. What is the worst thing about theatre in Australia?
The Australian musical hasn’t really been embraced yet. And it should be, we hold Australian plays aloft and wonder at their brilliance while Australian musicals languish. I think there are many factors at play, and I concede I don’t know how to fix it, but it frustrates me about Australian theatre.

12. Name one moment when you looked around, breathed happily and felt content?
First thing that comes to mind was when I first finished reading Cloudstreet, it blew me away, it’s beautiful. But mostly, I feel content on my couch watching movies. I’m a bit boring.

13. Where is the most interesting place you have travelled?
I’ve never been overseas but once I went to Movie World. I met Batman. That was a good day despite the fact my Mum made me wear sandals.

14. Who is the most famous person you’ve met?
I was sketch partner to John Cleese at the Just for Laughs International Comedy Gala last year. He’s the most famous person I’ve ever met, and probably the tallest. He’s at least a million tall-nesses.

15. Most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?
Doing my whole show in Noosa to an audience that wasn’t too happy to be there. Actually, come to think of it, that was amazing.

16. What’s your life motto?
‘If you stop, it dies.’ It sounds dark but it’s not, it just means that if you stop because you feel overwhelmed then what you are working towards will wither away. It keeps me motivated in the face of doubt and anxiety. Oh, and ‘this too shall pass’, that saying really makes me appreciate happy moments and makes it easier to swallow the horrible things that happen sometimes.

17.What’s your favourite post-show snack?

18. What’s your biggest phobia?

19.What is the worst date you’ve ever had?
Lauren and I have been together for 7 years, so I can’t really remember a shitty date. Probably because we never go on dates; that’s pretty shitty.

20.Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully on Deal or No Deal tossing up between 50c and a night of snuggles with Andrew O’Keefe.

The King Is Dead: Long Live Queen is playing on November 19 at The Basement, Sydney. Book tickets visit thebasement.com.au or call (02) 9251 2797

$25 presale | $30 at the door


Erin James

Erin James is AussieTheatre.com's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James