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

Solihull News - - ENTERTAINMENT -

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

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