So the Foursight Theatre company have decided that one Maggie isn’t enough, we need nine. Every member of the all-female cast gets to play Thatcher at some stage – there’s the sexy pre-no.10 Maggie who sets the Tories in a spin, military Maggie in combat fatigues riding a tank during the Falklands, and another Maggie for each of the eras in her life. Each Maggie has a different take on that voice. They all do quite well, but only a couple get close to that blood-curdling mix of patronizing and psychotic that was best done on Spitting Image. The nicest touch is that each Thatcher has her own wig, in a range of colours, but with no variation from the towering bouffant, and all made from what appears to be rigid fibre-glass.
The story is also narrated for us by a late-period Maggie in a frumpy black dress, who, after arriving in a giant handbag, roams the stage commenting on, and sometimes interacting with, the other Maggies. This narrator Maggie has most of the best jokes. Apart from the narration, the story is represented in an impressionistic way, with no attempt to represent any of the scenes from Thatcher’s life with much realism. This means that many scenes feel rather like live-action versions of political cartoons, with actors on stage just as likely to be representing ‘mass unemployment’ or ‘inner-city racial tension’, as they are to be playing real people such as Geoffrey Howe or Denis Thatcher.
I can’t say that I found any of this particularly funny. Because everything happened quite a while ago now, all the political events have to be painted with pretty broad brush strokes, and the humour is never very sophisticated. Thatcher’s cabinet, for example, are represented as a pack of pathetic dogs, with each getting a fairly basic joke attached to them. Back in the day, these politicians were all comedy gold, but it’s too late to resurrect those jokes now. I also thought some of the songs were a bit naff, with slightly laboured lyrics about cabinet reshuffles and the fight against socialism.
You can’t fault Foursight productions for the energy and skill with which they put on this elaborate show. I just imagine there could be a slightly craftier way of bringing Thatcher to the stage.