The Vaults, London – until 25 February 2018
Guest reviewer: Gregory Forrest
The night before Parliament votes on Section 28, an amendment to the Local Government Act which prevents schools or similar local authorities from promoting homosexuality, Margaret Thatcher finds herself in a Soho nightclub. This is the fabulous premise to the now iconic drag cabaret: Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho.
It’s not over-complicated, it’s just a great idea. Drag up as the woman who opposed gay rights. Drag up as the woman who had to display ‘male’ traits to succeed as a leader. There is, of course, the danger that a Maggie Thatcher drag show might become a history lesson as opposed to the high-camp spectacular it needs to be. On the other hand, such a spectacle might miss politically-profound details when recounting this history. Thankfully, Queen of Soho hits a perfect balance.
It is a brilliant central performance from Matt Tedford, and strong support from Ed Yelland and Nico Lennon. Yelland deserves particular praise by impersonating Peter Tatchell with absolutely none of his character traits in a real stroke of genius. The show overall is witty and comfortable. Some ad-libs seem like they are treading old ground, but I do not deny that long-run ad-libbing is a skill in and of itself, one championed by pantomime, and one which deserves high praise.
The most provocative and winningly political segment of the show is a talking Winston Churchill portrait. Complicating British icons is firmly on the cards with Maggie, and muddying Britain’s most difficult and eloquent saint in this self-self-self-referential way allows the performance to have real contemporary bite. Underneath the glitter is a bitter sense that we inherit our politics. The problems Westminster is currently facing have their foundations in history, and by taking the piss out of Maggie, might we avoid being pissed on in the near future? We are Thatcher’s children after all, and Mummy loves us.