Steve Nallon is well known as the voice of Margaret Thatcher from Spitting Image. He plays the Iron Lady herself in Jonathan Maitland’s play, Dead Sheep, which is now touring until 28 November 2016 after its premiere at London’s Park Theatre. I caught up with Steve to find out how he discovered that he can impersonate the ex Prime Minister and to see why everyone should be going to see the production.
How does it feel to be revisiting the role of Margaret Thatcher having originated ‘character’ in Spitting Image?
I loved working on Spitting Image but that voice was a caricature. An exaggeration of the real thing and overtly satirical. In Dead Sheep the challenge is to keep it real.
When did you first realise that you could impersonate the Iron Lady?
1975. Thatcher had become Tory leader and Mike Yarwood had a go at doing her but he just couldn’t get her. I had a go and found I could. I’ve never really understood why.
Do you feel that your command of her voice and mannerisms has changed?
Yes, her voice changed a lot. In the early days it was at a higher pitch and more posh. In the 80s she brought it down and it became less ‘alto’ and more ‘tenor’. Like all politicians she loosened her RP tone and tried to make it more ‘of the people’. After she left office in the 90s she had problems with her teeth and developed a slight whistle not unlike the one Tony Benn had!
Tell me about Dead Sheep and what your initial reaction was to the script.
I thought there were too many characters and too much written exposition that was supposed to be projected as images onto the set. I suggested to the writer Jonathan Maitland that he create a Chorus of three actors to play all the characters other than Geoffrey, Elspeth and Margaret. I also suggested the written exposition could be incorporated into the dialogue of the Chorus.
What do you think the audience will take away with them from the piece?
Inside knowledge. The play is a ‘backstage’ drama in away. Jonathan researched it thoroughly and you really are a fly on the wall to those events.
What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?
It’s funny! That’s the biggest reaction we get every night chatting afterwards to audience members. They never expected it to be so humorous.
Finally, what are you memories of the period of time that is covered in the play?
I remember being exceptionally busy but because of the act I did (taking spontaneous questions from the audience with no advance knowledge) I had to keep up with events. Like most people of a certain age I remember Geoffrey’s speech in the House of Commons but I was a political geek and I even recall Geoffrey’s Sunday afternoon interview on WEEKEND WORLD with Brian Walden!
Huge thanks to Steve for his time, I thoroughly enjoyed the production!