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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor