Toby Young: 'Why I decided I had to spare Boris Johnson's blushes'

IoS Interview: Toby Young looks to the future as he consigns his best work to history

Yet this morning, the 41-year-old will wake up at his home in Shepherds Bush, west London, pour himself a cup of coffee and turn his back on a play that could finally have been the making of him.

Who's the Daddy?, the farce combining sexual shenanigans at the Spectator magazine with the downfall of a blind Home Secretary, ends its sell-out run tonight in Islington. It is that rare thing, a smash hit with both critics and punters, so well regarded it threatened to establish Young as a serious dramatist rather than the talented but mercurial operator many had him down for.

So the news that Who's the Daddy? will never be performed again has caused much head-scratching as well as disappointment. Spurning several offers, Young and his co-writer have decided there will be no transfer to the West End, and no revival at a later date. And the reason is deference to the feelings of Boris Johnson, his boss at the Spectator (where Young is the resident theatre critic) and a figure mercilessly lampooned in the show.

"We've decided to spare Boris's blushes," he explains. "When Lloyd Evans, my co-writer, and I first decided to write the play, everyone said 'Boris will fire you'. But he didn't. If he had done so, we'd have had no qualms about transferring. But because he's behaved so well he's shamed us into acting in kind."

Johnson is not the only one feeling relieved. Young also had a ringside seat for the affair between Johnson and the columnist Petronella Wyatt, which nearly wrecked his marriage. Then there was the affair between David Blunkett and the Spectator's publisher, Kimberly Quinn, which forced the former home secretary out of office.

If the decision is no small sacrifice for Young, it has not come as a complete surprise to his friends, who suggest that marriage and fatherhood have mellowed him. "At one time Toby was happy to piss on anyone to get on," said one. "But that's all changed."

Young is hardly short of success. Yet for a journalist who became a contributing editor for Vanity Fair at 31, it might be said that his career had not lived up to expectation.

"Some people think we'll never write such a successful play again," admits Young. "It was a unique set of circumstances. But Lloyd and I are confident we can make lightning strike twice. We are working on another farce about the Royal Family, which will certainly be irreverent. It's more Ray Cooney than Ortonesque, though."

Boris Johnson has neither seen Who's the Daddy? nor read it, which may be just as well, considering that at the end (which can now be safely revealed) Kimberly Quinn gives birth to a pair of blond mop-topped twins.

Blunkett's lawyers sent Young a shot across the bows, warning they would keep a close eye on the play. Yet of all the protagonists on stage, the former home secretary seemed the most vulnerable.

"We stepped back from portraying him as a figure of fun," Young says. "He comes across as an absurd, power-crazed sex maniac. But at the same time he is also an innocent victim who is ruthlessly taken advantage of in the cut-throat, back-stabbing world he found himself in."

Fame and fortune are not completely off the Young agenda. He hopes that pulling the play may even work to his advantage. "Lloyd and I hope that all those people who haven't seen it will have an extremely positive impression of what they've missed. Hopefully it will become a legendary comedy that only a privileged few saw. So our reputation will be higher than it would have been."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried