Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho begins with the simple, but utterly ridiculous premise that the former Iron Lady accidentally became a gloriously camp cabaret act on the eve of the passing of Section 28. While this may sound like frivolous fantasy, Aine Flanagan Productions/Theatre503 enhance this musical theatre performance with historical references, political satire and a generous helping of smutty jokes.
The drag musical comedy begins with Maggie telling the story of how Section 28 came into being, with far more ’80 tunes than any history textbooks ever cared to mention. Matt Tedford leads the performance as the former prime minster, adorned with blue rosette, clutching a handbag, and somewhat distractingly, an ill-fitting skirt. From the outset there are satirical one-liners referencing Thatcher’s divisive time in power including Tedford producing a pint of milk and saying “Not for sharing!” and complaining about the North – “Not an M&S in sight”.
The scattering of characters from ’80s Westminster, such as Conservative MP Jill Knight, LGBT activist Peter Tatchell, and the Daily Mail’s favourite children’s book Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin,gives political punch to this cabaret. The rooting in historical reality helps to ground the show’s musically imaginative re-telling of events. Interpreting hit songs such as Billy Joel’s ‘She’s Only A Woman To Me’ provided plenty of audience laughs with the sinister line, ‘She can kill with her eyes’.
Alongside its political content the show is full of musical numbers, dancing and innuendo. This pairing of the serious and the light-hearted helps elevate this performance and distinguish it from other musical cabarets. The show only falls a bit flat when it occasionally slips into pure slapstick rather than retaining this satirical edge. Whilst the inclusion of Winston Churchill as a closet homosexual, and a much more base reading of ‘We shall fight them on the beaches’ gained much audience appreciation, the joke was milked for a bit too long.
Aine Flanagan Productions/Theatre503 have put on an amusing and clever drag musical comedy that made the audience laugh both at its ridiculously camp performances and its sharp satirical observations. This fusing of two genres makes Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho an enjoyable and thoughtful production.
Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho is playing at Upstairs at the Three and Ten until 22 May. For more information and tickets, see the Brighton Fringe website.