Home » London Theatre Reviews » Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho at the Garrick Theatre | Review

Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho at the Garrick Theatre | Review

Margaret Thatcher Queen Of Soho (Garrick cast) - photo credit, Rod Penn.
Margaret Thatcher Queen Of Soho (Garrick cast) – photo credit, Rod Penn.

Margaret Thatcher (or versions of her) has graced the West End stage before, at least twice: once in The Audience, a play by Peter Morgan which comprised of imagined conversations between Queen Elizabeth II, played by Dame Helen Mirren, and miscellaneous Prime Ministers throughout the Queen’s reign, and in Handbagged, a play by Moira Buffini, looking almost solely at the relationship between the Queen and Mrs Thatcher during the Iron Lady’s time in Downing Street. But Thatcher has not, I don’t think, been characterised quite like this before.

Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho involves an unlikely but nonetheless entertaining ‘damascene conversion’ with regards to Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, an amendment that stipulated that local authorities “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”. In addition, they were “not to promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

Thatcher (Matt Tedford) launches into song and dance on several occasions, each time maintaining an icy and deadpan persona, which worked in an ironic way – hearing the disco tunes ‘YMCA’ and ‘It’s Raining Men’ sung by the former leader of the Conservative Party is worth the price of a ticket in itself. Nothing is unmentionable or off-limits: having muddled a line, Tedford’s Thatcher wonders out loud whether that is a sign of things to come, a nod to Thatcher’s battle with dementia. A front-row audience member is offered a pint of milk, only for it to be snatched away at the last moment and put back in the infamous handbag.

Jill Knight, former member for Birmingham Edgbaston, is portrayed as the ‘villain’, to be booed as though this were a pantomime: two supporting actors, described as “the wets”, respectively ‘Hesel’ and ‘Tine’ (geddit?), between them play various members of Thatcher’s cabinet, staff and other public figures, including Sir Winston Churchill and the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. This reimagining of Thatcher maintains her assertiveness and confidence but also very much plays to the gallery – there are asides and ad-libs galore which add much to the evening’s entertainment.

The fourth wall is demolished in the opening scene and remains abolished (you know, like the GLC) throughout. Let’s just say that one gets up to satisfy a need to use the theatre’s conveniences while the show is in progress at one’s own risk. It’s a hammy performance, but one which brings much humour to statements that wouldn’t ordinarily be laughed at – there are some cracking punchlines about, for instance, “the general public” and the Liberal Democrats. And then this: “Homosexual feelings are something they [schoolchildren] grow out of, like empathy”. Oof. It helps to have lived through the era, but if you haven’t, there’s still plenty to enjoy, and enough detail is supplied in the narrative to provide the salient points to anyone in the audience who wasn’t in Britain at the time (or is simply too young to recall).

Still, it’s a curious character to bring back to life, as it were: the show has been around since 2013, and evidently not even the coronavirus could stop its enduring appeal. Yes, there are more than a few untruths in this alternative storyline, but then there are more than a few untruths in modern politics in any event. A delightfully ostentatious production that had the audience in stitches, I never thought I would see the day when I would, in the words of a neighbour who wished me a good evening as I left for the theatre, “enjoy Margaret Thatcher”.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Maggie makes her West End debut in this smash hit drag extravaganza! Following five sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, the Iron Lady comes home to Soho, more fabulous than ever.

On the eve of the vote on Section 28, Maggie gets lost in Soho and accidentally becomes a cabaret superstar. Will she change her mind about the homophobic bill before it’s too late…?

A big gay odyssey about LGBT rights, the 80s and disco created by double Olivier Award winner Jon Brittain and Matt Tedford.

MARGARET THATCHER
QUEEN OF SOHO
Created by Jon Brittain and Matt Tedford
Directed by Jon Brittain
Starring Matt Tedford as Margaret Thatcher

Venue: Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London
Dates: 19 th to 21 st August 2021 Age guidance 16+
Time: 8.00pm (1 hour 40 minutes including interval)
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