Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Áine Flanagan Productions, 'Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho': Skirts of Yesteryear

The Iron Lady certainly is for turning in this crackling drag comedy. 

The New Theatre, International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival
May 12-17

My review of Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho by Matt Tedford and Jon Brittain coming up just as soon as I desperately search in need of a private members club ... 

Margaret Thatcher in the manicured clutches of a drag queen. A queer desecration of the British Prime Minister's legacy feels eminent.

Not that the LGBT community should necessarily remember the woman fondly; despite voting to decriminalise homosexuality in 1967, her government introduced the infamous Section 28 in 1988 - an amendment which prohibited local authorities from promoting homosexuality.

Amazingly, Matt Tedford's drag performance retains tact. Her hair styled into the iron barnet, a sensible handbag slinked over her elbow, this Thatcher might be susceptible to that most humanist of faculties: a change of heart.

Taking us back to the early-mid 1980s, Jon Brittain's staging is rarely without vigour. A Sorkin-esque walk-and-talk struts us through Downing St, and a ghost of Winston Churchill ("Is it the Nazis again?) gives counsel to the Iron Lady ("No Winnie, it's another group of leather-clad men: the homosexuals").

Tedford's Thatcher is not alone. Ed Yelland and Matt Milne (moustachioed and capable) have got her back. Together they revisit the Prime Minister's role in the introduction of Section 28. However, this re-imagining takes a detour, through Soho specifically, where Thatcher gets lost on the eve of the vote.

There are a few scoffs in its whirling movement, and in the moment Tedford improvises expertly, responding to the snapped strap of his handbag: "Acted myself out of a bag".

The furiously good performances aside, there is also the distinctly drag sensibility in the refitting of history to make room for gay meaning (something seen in Irish drag as well). It's more glorious to think of Margaret Thatcher as leaving politics to become a cabaret siren with a regular slot in G.A.Y.

Ultimately, the message is quite poignant. Amongst the divisive opinions raging about her economic policies and social conservatism, Thatcher is brought to us not as prime minister or a drag queen but as a human. If that doesn't edge our minds open I don't know what will.

What did everybody else think?

1 comment:

  1. Hilariously clever, funny theatre. 3 great characters. Great skits. Even Mrs. T would have found it funny I think?! Is a send-up but not vindictive. She’s quite likeable in this show, and not a bad singer. Should go ‘mainstream’ as all would enjoy.