Margaret Thatcher was really a man in drag. This was a popular (pre-internet) accusation leveled at the former British prime minister.
Contemporary cultural representations also pitched her as a fella. Spitting Image, the phenomenal satirical TV show that ran throughout the 80’s, portrayed her in a man’s pinstripe suit & tie – the voice was provided by the legendary Steve Nallon.
The fact that Thatcher lent herself to male representations is not just in spite. She was an incredibly divisive politician but there is no doubt she had to have the extraordinary visible strength to make it to the top in such a misogynistic world as UK politics in the late 70’s. The real-life image of Margaret Thatcher was actually created by a team of people (we would now call it media training). She was able to call on a motley crew that coached her in dress, voice and emotional control on TV and stage. The crew included TV producer Gordon Reece, the advertising guru Lord Bell, and allegedly voice coaching from the National Theatre and even performance advice from Lawrence Olivier…. so her image – her creation – her choice?
Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho takes place on the night before the vote in the House of Commons on the infamous Section 28 which banned the “promotion of homosexuality on any publicly funded organization” like schools and local councils.
This vote happened just at a time when many city councils were trying to enact policies that countered homophobia and the book ‘Jenny lives with Eric and Martin‘ was the teaching aid that pushed a homophobic Conservative party into apoplexy and then over the edge.
In this show, Margaret goes out and finds herself lost in Soho, where through the transformational power of disco (It’s Raining Men by The Weather Girls) we see a potential for an alternate reality where hatred and discrimination are replaced with compassion and tolerance.
This piece magnificently conjures up a place and time that had no love for those deemed different. The Tory media propagated the hatred and suggested gays were subhuman (“Gay Plague” News of the World) and deserved to die of AIDS. Local councils were the enemy and schools were hotbeds of communists and sexual deviants brainwashing the nation’s children.
Peripheral characters are lightly sketched but effective and Matthew Tedford excels as Margaret. The finest moments, however, are during the audience interaction, where withering put-downs are delivered with laser-sharp precision.
Whadya know – a skill redolent of all good drag queens!!
Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho
Friday 23rd February 2018
Review by Jonny Ward : Queerguru London Correspondent