Review: Margaret Thatcher, Queen Of Soho

Written by Antonello Sticca on 14 January 2014 in Culture
Bah, Handbag! Antonello Sticca reviews Margaret Thatcher, Queen Of Soho

Peculiar gems can often be found in small theatres, some that we enjoy, some less so. However, it’s safe to say that no one from the Conservative Party will watch Margaret Thatcher Queen Of Soho without feeling more than a little bit uncomfortable.

In the play, Thatcher is still the prime minister. That’s as true to life as it gets. She is portrayed as a drag queen after getting lost in the streets of London, specifically in the bright lights of Soho, the heart of gay London. Provocative? Just a bit.

But it works. The audience clearly enjoyed laughing at the Iron Lady’s expense, especially a wonderful scene in which she has an illuminating conversation with Winston Churchill. Thatcher had her run-ins with the gay community, with the 1988 introduction of Section 28, which outlawed local authorities from promoting homosexuality, prompting a public apology from David Cameron two decades later.

So while it’s plausible to create a whole play around Thatcher’s views on the gay community, this offering is also unexpectedly bizarre. Perhaps that’s why it works.

In the Queen of Soho, Margaret Thatcher finds herself lost in the rainy streets of London on the night of the vote for Section 28, an experience which makes her realise that the legislation is both wrong and unacceptable. Playwrights Jon Brittain and Matt Tedford have clearly enjoyed themselves: over the course of her one-hour adventures Thatcher ends up becoming a cabaret sensation.

The actors and the direction are formidable, with Matt Tedford particularly brilliant at imitating Thatcher.

Margaret Thatcher, Queen Of Soho is trying to inject a bit of cheer into what was frankly a sad time for the gay community; it is an intriguing show and is anything but bleak. In fact, it’s the opposite, a lively and spirited production. Tedford raises the fun factor, with his obvious charisma helping him to lead a play that, through its teasing, ends up being as patriotic as any of Thatcher’s political speeches.

Queen of Soho is a tantalising production, and a perfect antidote for those tired, sickly sweet Christmas pantomimes. Full of fun and dance, it also explains how one individual could have such an effect on the gay community.

This is a controversial drag show, a comedy cabaret musical, where Margaret Thatcher is the entertainer. Where else can you see the Iron Lady played by a cross-dresser?

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