Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Thurs 15 July
There’s nothing like rewriting a bit of history, especially in a power suit, heels and handbag. Bringing a show about Margaret Thatcher to Wales was never going to be easy, but if anyone could win over a tough sellout crowd it was Matt Tedford – who plays the former Prime Minister in this outstanding show.
Programmed as the curtain-raiser to Wales Millennium Centre’s Cabaret season and general reopening, this Edinburgh Fringe hit gave this most grateful of audiences a treat as we sat, socially distanced and totally safe in a venue that has its COVID setup spot on. With drinks delivered to your seats, we were ready to go and from the off Margaret Thatcher Queen Of Soho does not disappoint. Maggie’s opening gambit was to offer a member of the audience a pint of milk from her handbag, only to recede immediately – saying, “it’s not for sharing” in those dulcet tones.
Set in the 1980s, with a pounding soundtrack to match, the plot is centred on Section 28 – a bill, passed into law during Thatcher’s reign, that stopped councils and schools “promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. You could be forgiven for thinking you were at a pantomime at times, as the audience booed the villain of the piece: Tory MP Jill Knight, nemesis to Thatcher in this fictional retelling (they were bosom buddies in real life), who introduced the Section 28 amendment into the Local Government Act in 1988. Conversely, such is the warmth of Tedford’s performance that he even manages a few sympathetic “aaaahhh”s for his Thatcher. In Wales! No mean feat.
On stage with Tedford are two supporting actors who work incredibly hard – transforming themselves from striking miners, grotesque cabinet ministers of the day, a brilliant anarchist version of Peter Tatchell and even a young, gay Boris Johnson. Perhaps the highlight of the night was a scene with a talking portrait of Winston Churchill, who boasts of his gay sexploits in glorious, filthy detail: let’s say he did much more than just fight them on the beaches. This scene had the audience rocking in their socially distanced seats.
The trio were clearly delighted to be performing again, the two moustachioed sidekicks at times stealing the limelight from Maggie – much to her disdain – with Tedford offering adlibs such as “I hope you kept some of your furlough money.” Just the ticket for Wales Millennium Centre’s reopening; one can only hope that this theatre is not for turning, now they’ve finally been able to open their doors and welcome back a thirsty audience.
words JAMIE REES
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