Venue: Underbelly George Square – The Milking Shed
Fringe stalwart production Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho returns to the Fringe at Underbelly, before its West End debut. Created by double Olivier Award winner Jon Brittain and Matt Tedford, this show is a rip-roaring production delivered in a glossy hi-fi format.
The first thing that hits you when entering the auditorium is a blazing neon sign buring the word ‘Maggie’ through the fog. When the sound begins, the audience is blasted with thumping tunes to welcome the entrance of the shows’ star, portrayed by Tedford. The production feels slicker than other Fringe shows, but this is to be expected given the relatively steep entry price.
There is acknowledgement early on of the potential challenge in bringing a Thatcher-themed show to a relatively left-wing city like Edinburgh. Throughout, the show cleverly keeps you guessing who the intended audience is. It never explicitly condemns Thatcher as a person, but makes its opinion clear concerning her politics. It covers important topics such as the Section 28 scandal, dealing out criticism while cleverly making it all about the psychodrama of the ‘Maggie’ character, enabling the audience to follow this character through her (assumed) decision-making process.
Tedford’s Thatcher impression is comically accurate, honed over 8 years of performing the show. The voice fills the auditorium from the get-go. The songs aren’t really sung but rather bellowed in the declarative Thatcherite style. While successful in mimicking Thatcher’s tone, an improvement here would be the use of more actual singing from Tedford. Especially on the more catchy songs, the audience’s attempts to sing along are vaguely discouraged by the character’s bellowing voice. Of course, this may be a deliberate artistic choice, but one which can become rather overused during the course of the show. Either way, it does bring to mind what 11 years of that delivery must have been like for those of us who weren’t there.
Overall, the show is successful in pleasing its audience with fairly detailed political satire, comedy and classic 80s tunes. It wouldn’t be surprising if Maggie Thatcher Queen of Soho’s short post-Fringe West End debut becomes something more permanent.
This show‘s run has now ended.
Image credit: Rod Penn