Falling back into Steps
Steps have reclaimed their musical crown and are ready for a summer tour. Faye Tozer tells MARION McMULLEN that it’s goodod to be back on the road with her partners in pop
FAYE Tozer knows exactly what essentials she needs to pack for the Summer Of Steps tour. “A hair kit, a make- up kit and a gym kit,” she rattles off, before adding with a laugh, “although the gym kit might not always get used to be fair, but the aim, the promise is there.
“I’ll also pack a cap and sunglasses – the essential pop kit – and a bloomin’ good coat that can deal with all sorts of weather. Oh, and a fabulous pair of high heels because you never know when you might go out to dinner.”
The 42- year- old mum is packing her suitcases to spend the next few months touring with fellow Steps members Lee Latchford- Evans, Claire Richards, Lisa Scott- Lee and Ian “H” Watkins.
“We got back together last year for the 20th anniversary and we all slotted back into our old positions. We had a great time and it was quite easy being back together,” she says.
“We’re in a really good place – we’re all older and wiser in a good way and we go out socialising and have dinner together. It helps that we have a great time, we believe in it, and that makes it so lovely to perform.”
Steps first broke on to the pop scene in 1997 and their debut single 5,6,7,8 achieved huge success.
They became synonymous with lively dance performances, colourful costumes, and catchy pop hits like their cover version of Tragedy by the Bee Gees and songs like One For Sorrow and Better Best Forgotten.
The group notched up an unbroken run of 14 top five singles – including three number ones – two four- times platinum albums and one five- times platinum album.
Until their break up in 2001, they achieved an impressive 20 million in record sales and seven sold- out arena tours. They reunited a decade later for their 2011 hits compilation The Ultimate Collection and a sell- out 20- date tour and were back again last year to mark their 20th anniversary. Now the new Summer Of Steps tour will see them in concert all over the UK.
For Faye performing and being on a stage has always felt natural to her. er. “I was six when I did my very first fifirst performance ce and got my first wage packet. I was as in a stage show w with Davy Jones from The Monkees,” she remembers. “I worked with the Royal Ballet later that year as well and I did my first play when I was 12. I always wanted to do musical theatre, but then Steps came along and that came first.”
She says they have all been getting in shape for the tour and are ready for all their dance moves.
“There was a lot of dancing with Steps, but it does get tougher and tougher,” she admits with a wry grimace. “You do feel it on your joints. You have to make the effort. You need stamina to run up and down stairs at the concerts, get changed then go on stage and sing.”
She adds: “I feel so lucky though. Steps is such an incredible machine, such a great business. It’s our baby and it’s always going to be there.
“It’s lovely for me to take the Steps hat off for two seconds every now and again and go and do something else. I’ve had incredible roles in incredible shows and I always hope to be doing that as well, but the audiences just go crazy at a Steps concert. It’s time to have a bit of a sing and dance and just enjoy the buzz of it. The fans keep coming back and it’s all the generations now from grandchildren to grannies and they are just singing their hearts and dancing.”
Many of Steps now have families of their own, Ian “H” has twin boys, Claire and Lisa both have a boy and a girl, and Faye’s son Benjamin is nine. “I’ve got a very supportive family. Benjamin is at school now. In the past I’d pack a suitcase and off we’d go. He used to come on tour with me when he was three and he would go to sleep on the ‘ magic bus’ and wake up somewhere different,” she smiles.
“He doesn’t remember that now, but when we played Wembley last year all our children came on stage for The Way You Make Me Feel. They were young enough and enthusiastic enough to enjoy it. It was a lovely moment.”
GEORGE Costigan is one of those actors you instantly recognise on screen but whose name may easily escape you. “When I’m out and about, people say, ‘ I know you’,” he chuckles. “I remember once in London, a kid of about 16 poked his head out of a phone box and said ‘ You’re George Costigan!’
“That means he would have had to have waited for the credits at the end of whatever I was appearing in. I find that unspeakably flattering!”
He’s probably best remembered for his role as randy, adulterous businessman Bob who embarks on an affair with two schoolgirls in the classic 1987 film Rita, Sue and Bob Too, set on a council estate in Bradford.
He’s also been directed by Clint Eastwood in the Hollywood drama Hereafter and played Eddie, the philandering husband of Ruth ( Penelope Wilton) in the movie Calendar Girls.
TV roles have got meatier as he’s got older, he agrees, as he has clinched roles in award- winning dramas including Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley ( in which he played brash businessman millionaire Nevison Gallagher, whose daughter goes missing), Line Of Duty, Unforgiven, Scott & Bailey and Emmerdale.
“The TV roles have got meatier but I can be choosier now,” he reflects. “If I don’t want to do something, I can be a little bit picky. There’s stuff I did when the kids’ feet were growing because I needed to financially and I recognise that.”
He loves working on Sally’s projects, he enthuses. “She’s such a good writer. She’s done all the work and the thinking. Basically you turn up and say the lines in the right order and you’ll look terribly good.”
George has been surrounded by good writers throughout his career, including Willy Russell and Alan Bleasdale during his years with the Liverpool Everyman Theatre, which spawned such famous actors as Julie Walters, Bill Nighy and the late Pete Postlethwaite.
He’s also married to writer Julia North, whom he met while at the Everyman, and has himself written plays and collaborated with Julia on the comedy Birds Of A Feather.
But it has taken him nearly 20 years to complete his first trilogy of novels. Last year his debut, The Single Soldier, was published. It’s a love story which begins in the Second World War during the German Occupation of France and sees Frenchman Jacques move and rebuild his home for his loved one Simone to return to after the war.
George, who has lived in France for 30 years, says it was there he was inspired to write the story.
“We were out mushrooming one day with some friends who took us through an old, dark wood. We got to the end and they showed us a house perched on an impossible hill.”
The house, he says, stood in utter desolation with a fantastic view across to the Cathar mountains: “But it was sad. We discovered that at the turn of the 20th century the owner fell out with a neighbour and moved it from a nearby village to this field and rebuilt it there.”
The image of him moving it brick by brick in a cart to rebuild it in a field – a feat that took seven years – gave George the idea for the novel.
The follow- up, The Soldier’s Home, continues the story, with Simone and Enid – two interlinked stories in one book – concluding the tale. It finds Simone living as a single mother in the US, pining for her French love Jacques, the father of their son, and hoping they can rekindle their love and that she will one day move back.
But as time moves on, so does life. They both form other relationships and, living so far away from each other, their dreams fade.
George and his family originally moved to France because of the Thatcher government, he reveals.
“Kenneth Baker was ruining the education system and we had three children going to secondary school. We took a risk and I was the main earner, but I think my wife had a tougher time than I did raising three children.
“It was hard for our eldest son to walk into secondary school when he couldn’t speak the language. But the upshot is that all three of our sons are bilingual. “We chose to be European.” These days, he divides his time between home in the Aveyron in southern France and the UK.
His eldest son, actor Niall, lives in Yorkshire and George comes over when he can to get his fix of his grandson, Felix. Living away from the UK hasn’t hindered his work opportunities, though. “I’m still deeply ambitious,” he observes. “The majority of my work is behind me but if you judge this, the best of my work is ahead of me because I’ve reached the stage where I know how to do my job.” It’s not only meaty TV dramas that come his way. The challenging theatre roles are right up there too. He’s currently starring in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night as the angry patriarch James Tyrone at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow – so there’s no slowing down. When the play finishes, he’ll return to his French home – in his words ‘ 27km from the nearest traffic light’ – where he relaxes by playing the guitar and piano, writing and gardening. “I know that when I get home I will be knackered from doing the play, but then my friend puts that into perspective. “He says, ‘ Are you tired? Then get down the pit!’ I love to do this job so I really shouldn’t whinge. It’s pathetic.”
Ironically, the longest ‘ resting’ period he’s had as an actor was after he got his breakthrough screen role in Rita, Sue And Bob Too. He didn’t work for six months after the film was released.
“The thing you come to grasp in this profession is that there are no rules. There’s not an actor in the world who doesn’t think, ‘ I’ll never work again’ at some point. It’s the most paranoid profession.”
Born in Portsmouth, George grew up in Salford, Lancashire and has found that a lot of his roles have demanded a Yorkshire accent.
He’ll soon be joining Suranne Jones and the cast of Gentleman Jack, Sally Wainwright’s new eight- part television historical drama set in Halifax, west Yorkshire, and in the meantime is thinking of writing a whodunnit for his wife.
“It started as a present for Jules – I’ve written half of it and now I’m getting stuck on the police procedural bit, so it may take some time,” he says.
Hopefully not another 20 years.
The Soldier’s Home by George Costigan is published by Urbane Publications, priced £ 8.99
Faye Tozer says she and her Steps bandmates still have fun together
The roles keep coming for actor and writer George Costigan
George in Rita, Sue And Bob Too with Siobhan Finneran and Michelle Holmes