'We had to check my bra size during a show' | Sandi Toksvig talks to James Rampton about her return to touring

'We had to check my bra size during a show'

Sandi Toksvig talks to James Rampton about her return to touring

Sandi Toksvig is remembering a terrific occasion at the Festival Hall in London four years ago. 

‘My wife and I renewed our wedding vows on the stage. It was a small gathering, a few family – and a thousand of my close friends. It was held on the day that same-sex marriages were made legal.

‘It was astonishing. I invited 150 family and friends, and let it be known to the general public that if anybody wanted to come, they were most welcome. The hall was full. There were literally thousands of people. It was every kind of person you could possibly imagine. It was very jolly. The only drawback was that there wasn’t enough cake!’

This story tells you everything about the presenter’s popularity – which brings us to her latest UK tour, National Trevor. 

Its title stems from a mock-argument she had with a pal. She explains:   ‘One day, a friend of mine was being extremely rude to me‎. A lot of my friends are - I encourage it! So in the middle of this argument, I said to her, "Don't you know I'm a National Treasure?' "

‘And she replied, "You're a National Trevor?" Then her husband said, "Who's been calling her Trevor?" Now they call me Trevor. 

‘So that's why I gave the show this title. I'm going around the country looking for all the National Trevors. I'm celebrating people.’

In person, Sandi is just as warm, witty, welcoming and wonderful as she is on screen. She is marvellous company, and an hour with her simply flies by.‎ 

Over a burger in a central London hotel, Sandi is brimming with excitement about the National Trevor tour, which kicked  off at The Lowry in Salford last night.

As part of the show, the QI host will be regaling audiences with a raft of funny facts.’I'm endlessly interested in things,’ says the 60-year-old. ‘I think detail is terribly funny. Did you know that the glue on Israeli postage stamps is Kosher?’

National Trevor also includes a general knowledge quiz. "I don't know if you want to win it,’ Sandi smiles, ‘because then you have to come up on stage and talk to me all about your life!"’

During the show, Sandi invites the audience to help her conduct a piece of music, too. ‘I get them to conduct Beethoven's Ode to Joy. I chose that piece because Beethoven was deaf by the time he completed it. 

‘It's remarkable to want to create music when you can't hear it. On the night of the premiere, he was seen running through the streets shouting, "Grab life by the throat!" That's what I'm saying in this show.

‘Whenever I see people wearing a T-shirt that says, "Living the Dream," ‎I think, "You're totally not." I want to tell them, "If you had to buy a T-shirt saying that, it's not working".’

There are two gigs in particular on the National Trevor tour that Sandi is excited about.‎ She is really thrilled to be returning to her wedding venue, the Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre. 'I love that venue,’ she says. 

‘The Southbank Centre was founded in 1951.  Because they had just gone through the rigours of the Second World War, the slogan for the Festival Hall was, "Women and children first". ‎

‘That was because they wanted something that was softer and had less of the toxic masculinity that they’d had during the Second World War. ‎The venue has got this astonishing atmosphere.’

Sandi – a co-founder of the Women's Equality Party –  is also especially pleased to be playing the Brighton Dome. 

‘I love Brighton. I took my grandson there recently for the day, and we had a marvellous time. I feel a real connection with the Dome.‎ I’ve played there quite a lot of times. Some buildings are just particularly suited to stand-up. At the Brighton Dome, you feel hugged by the audience.’

The aspect of the tour Sandi is most looking forward to is the audience interaction. ‘I can't wait to get out there. The best bit is not me talking to them - it's them talking to me. Me talking? Not so interesting. Them talking? Very interesting!

‘You never quite know what is going to happen.‎ The unexpected stuff is always the most enjoyable part. The most unexpected thing that ever happened in a show took place during a Q&A in Bradford. A woman asked me what my bra size was. I couldn't remember, so she had to come up on stage and have a look.’

As host of The Great British Bake Off , Sandi says she’s also looking forward to a return to live performance as ‘there is still something magical about sharing an evening out at the theatre’.

‘When actors stand backstage before a performance, we listen to the sound of the audience. We say, "They're a bit Monday night" or "They're a bit Saturday matinee." A distinct personality overtakes an entire group of people.’

The theatre also demands a focus that we sometimes lack in other parts of our life. "It's about getting people to put their phones away, have an engagement with the show and listen to other people laughing - hopefully - or weeping! 

'For a brief moment ,we can forget about Brexit or whatever it is we're worrying about and lose ourselves in the show. That's good for us. We feel better.’

One of the main themes of National Trevor is our fixation with celebrity, Sandi says.

‘The thing I'm slightly obsessed with is our whole attitude to fame. ‎There is a new trend of calling people a "national treasure". I don't know where it's come from, but I heartily disapprove. 

‘I think everybody has something to commend them. Everyone has a story where you go, "Really?" We don't get to hear their stories of extraordinary endeavours." 

Sandi muses on what she hopes audiences will take away from "National Trevor." "I hope they think that they have had a really good evening, that they're had a great laugh and that I'm much younger, taller and thinner in the flesh!" 

  

Before she has to go off to another gig, Sandi decides to order an alcohol-free cocktail to clear her throat. It's called Endless Joy. 

Sandi jokes: ‘That should be the title of my next live show.’ 

Well, I'd go and see that, wouldn't you? 

• Tickets for Sandi Toksvig's National Trevor tour are available from‎ www.sanditoksvig.com  

Published: 10 Jan 2019

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