Garrick Theatre, London
This charmingly funny play goes behind the feud between Margaret Thatcher and Edward Heath – but can feel slightly rushed in places.
Having previously had a run at the White Bear in 2019, Maggie & Ted by Michael McManus made its West End debut at the Garrick Theatre for two nights only to offer an intriguing look at the long feud between the two Tory Prime Ministers.
Staged as a radio play, what makes this play fascinating to watch unfold is not only in the way it highlights the similarities between the pair despite ending up on opposite sides when it came to Europe, writer McManus actually worked as an aide to Edward Heath. This makes the play seem to have a strong insight as to what happened behind the scenes that will certainly fascinate those who were around during these two formidable characters were actively working in politics.
With a script that sparkles with some brilliant one liners and anecdotes, the play moves at a brisk pace to the point that it comes across as slightly rushed – the years seem to go by in a hurry and it would have been nice to have a little more depth to the important political moments to give extra context to the depth of the feud.
This being said, Michael Kingsbury’s production certainly delivers in ensuring that the bite of the humour in the script is understated but powerful – there are too many moments to mention and if it comes to the stage (which hopefully it will) to spoil for those who have yet to see it. By having the actors hold their scripts, it is always clear this play was about showing how Thatcher and Heath would use words to deliver blows to effect – words and not action really drive this play forward.
What is also interesting is the way in which the play has been structured to ensure that it appears that Thatcher and Heath’s stories are running parallel despite being born a few years apart. Each central character is given equal air time – interspersed with other personalities from the time to create an engaging show.
A lot of what makes this production a success depends on the performances from the cast. In particular Clare Bloomer as Margaret Thatcher is absolutely spot on in terms of her mannerisms and poise – she really embodies this strong willed personality but also not afraid to show the characters flaws. In turn, Martin Jarvis as Edward Heath delivers his lines in a wonderfully dry humoured way that makes him stand out, highlighting the Heath’s petulance well.But Jon Glover is equally impressive as he brings to life a wide variety of characters throughout history such as Winston Churchill, Boris Johnson and even at one moment – Dame Edna Everage!
Overall, while elements of the show feel rushed and could use a little development this is a delightfully funny and sharp play that deserves a big audience.
By Emma Clarendon