A beleaguered female Prime Minister tries desperately to get an unpopular Bill through Parliament, facing fierce opposition from the public, the press and her own party. So far, so 2019? No, Wilton’s Music Hall is not playing host to an expose of Theresa May’s handling of Brexit but instead is a fitting home for Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho!
Jon Brittain and Matt Tedford’s inspired and riotous production takes us back to the 1980s when the elephant in the Parliamentary room was Clause 28 rather than Article 50! Don’t go along, though, expecting a hardhitting exploration of the impact on the gay community of a Bill banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools. This is social commentary with its name up in lights, wearing stiletto heels and set to a thumping 80s soundtrack. It won’t have you shaking your head at societal injustice as much as it will have you clapping along!
Star of the show without doubt is Matt Tedford himself, faultlessly recreating his gloriously camp Thatcher, complete with iconic blue suit, pussy cat bow and handbag, which received a rapturous response in previous runs of Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho in Edinburgh and Leicester Square. The fantastical premise imagines Thatcher getting lost in Soho on the the eve of the vote on Clause 28 and how her transformation to cabaret star might have changed the course of history for the gay community. However, the plot appears less important than an opportunity for Tedford to channel his inner diva.
While Tedford certainly takes centre stage, credit has to go to the only other two performers in the show, pithily dubbed the ‘Thatcherites’! This versatile pair in denim shorts and chunky moustaches ably provide support whether portraying striking miners, doddery, old Etonian cabinet ministers or identifiable characters on both sides of the Clause 28 debate. They are equally at home striking some head turning dance poses too.
It is good to see this old Music Hall, in the process of being restored to its former glory, playing host to Tedford’s constant asides to the audience and witty references to contemporary events and characters in politics. In some ways, these comparisons with the current Brexit debate detract from this glimpse into the 1980s world and prevents the piece from being a true satire on the impact of Clause 28. Indeed, at one stage we are almost left feeling sympathy for Thatcher!
Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho does have some edge to it. We are reminded in oneliners of her status as the ‘milksnatcher’ and her attitude to single parents and the poor. However, it is an edge softened by a feather boa! This run was originally timed to take place to mark the week the UK left the EU, with a party planned for after the performance on Friday 29th March, which of course was supposed to have been Brexit Day. The party is still set to go ahead, however, because what diva needs an excuse for a party?