by Laura Kressly
It’s the 1980s. Big hair, shoulder pads and synth-pop provide a backdrop for Margaret Thatcher’s advocacy of the individual instead of a collective society. This results in a country that loves to go out dancing, but when crisis hits, people find themselves isolated and overwhelmed. Denise’s journey from cheerful disco queen to depressed carer unfolds through a fragmented monologue of nostalgia, song lyrics and sound-bites.
by guest critic Gregory Forrest
The night before Parliament votes on Section 28, an amendment to the Local Government Act which prevents schools or similar local authorities from promoting homosexuality, Magaret Thatcher finds herself in a Soho nightclub. This is the fabulous premise to the now iconic drag cabaret: Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho.
Nearly a decade after Jerusalem opened to universal acclaim at The Royal Court, Jez Butterworth finally gives us another masterpiece. A sprawling family/political drama taking place over one day in 1981 rural Armagh, The Ferryman barrels towards a predicable end. But the genius lies in the final scene, where the plot shoots off in a different direction like a rogue firework before exploding. Laden with familial craic, rebel spirit, the complexities of colonialism and rounded off with phenomenal performances, The Ferryman encapsulates the best of contemporary British playwriting.
With a stage covered in tinsel and large neon pink script of ‘Maggie’, it is immediately clear that the audience is in for an evening of fabulously camp cabaret. The hour-long show tells us the fictitious story taking place on the eve of the Section 28 vote. Maggie has been contemplating the morality of this vote for some time, and goes for a walk to clear her head. She was not paying attention and got lost in deepest, darkest Soho where, being mistaken for a drag queen, she is invited into a club. After emerging the next morning as a new woman, she resigns and embarks on a new career in show business.
Matt Tedford, with immaculate vocals and gesture, drives the show as Margaret Thatcher. Robert Cawsey and Ed Yelland multi-role in a costume base of cut-off denim shorts and moustaches. There are some show tunes and gay standards, but the show is predominately spoken. All three performers possess a high level of physical performance and the difference between the various characters effectively uses stereotype for comedic effect. Tedford’s banter with the audience and comic timing is impeccable, creating numerous moments of raucous laughter.
The writing is tight, polished and riddled with political references and jokes. Despite the format and pretence of being a light-hearted cabaret show, it looks at Thatcher’s controversial policies, particularly the state of the country leading up to the Section 28 vote. This production ends happily for the main character, (even though the majority of audiences are the sort that despise her) and lends itself to empathising with someone that, despite her mistakes, is very much a human rather than a monster. If only this production depicted real life! Writers Jon Brittain and Matt Tedford are a great team who deliver a brilliant piece of writing that manages to be hilarious and highly political at the same time.
Whilst the show was excellent, there is little scope for development. If it were any longer, the concept would stale. As an intimate show, larger venues would also present a challenge. Despite this, it is a vital contribution to fringe theatre and caters to a wide range of audiences.
Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Click for original review on remotegoat.com.