Margaret Thatcher Queen of Game Shows

Thu 3rd – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

Eloise Heath

at 12:40 on 6th Aug 2017

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Margaret Thatcher. A sequin mini. A Britney mike. Combine these three intriguing elements, add in a gleefully contrived format, and you get ‘Margaret Thatcher Queen of Game Shows’: a post-Brexit Tory-bashing fever dream complete with thumping 80s pop.

Theresa May’s government needs a completely arbitrary system to decide who gets benefits and who doesn’t. Enter Matt Tedford’s Mrs. Thatcher, finding a new lease of life as a light entertainment sensation; ’taking back Saturday night like [she] took back the Falklands.’ The audience are split down the middle and pitted against one another as the Strivers vs the Skivers, all in pursuit of a golden giro cheque. Throughout, volunteers are physically yanked onto the stage to compete in rounds including the ‘Eurosceptic assault course’ and ‘Brexit through the gift shop.’ Already a bizarre premise, the structure becomes a weird composite as the game show format is periodically interrupted by ghostly visitations and dream sequences, taking our musical Maggie on a self revelatory journey. Bizarrely, it all ties together. The show works with a strange internal logic of its own, sweeping the audience along in the process.

Of course, at the Fringe mocking the Tories is reasonably low hanging fruit, and there are a few jokes that feel a little too easy. However, hot on the heels of these occasional moments are the punchy one liners and glorious set pieces that pepper the script. Owen Jones’ ode to Jeremy Corbyn to the tune of ‘The Candy Man’ is a highlight, as is a rap battle between Angela Merkel and the Iron Lady, pitting East Germany against Westminster. Indeed, the show is smart in its silliness. Writing Theresa May’s politics onto Thatcher’s creates a sort of female Tory leader palimpsest and gives the whole premise a zesty relevance.

Near the end of the show Mrs. Thatcher reflects on the complexity of economic and social debate, the disco lights fading to a cold wash as the false dichotomy of an ‘us’ and ‘them’ dynamic is deemed reductive. ‘But who’s got time for nuance?!’ Maggie bursts out; this comedy may be on the nose, but it knows it, justifying its pantomime Tory villains and flamboyant caricatures. ‘Margaret Thatcher Queen of Game Shows’ claims a valid place amongst the inevitable deluge of Brexit based comedy at this year's Fringe. There will doubtless be many earnest and poignant takes on the leave result, but it takes the Iron Lady’s nerves of steel to stare down the barrel of Brexit and belt out Dolly Parton’s ‘Nine To Five.’ The delivery is superb, the set deliciously low-fi, and the result raucously fun. Here Maggie Thatcher is a scene snatcher, and I don’t see her handing it back any time soon.

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Darcy Rollins

at 13:29 on 6th Aug 2017

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Regally oblivious as ever, Maggie is not dead at all but in fact hosting a gameshow with a difference; 'A Wheel of Misfortune' spins as 'Strivers' and 'Striders' are pitted against each other. When Margaret (Matt Tedford) threw both Gameshows and Benefits under the umbrella of “arbitrary system[s]”, in an eerily reminiscent tone, I instantly realised how perfectly fitting the premise was. The absurd triviality of a Gameshow is not so different from a system which sanctions running 5 minutes late to a Job Seeker's Allowance interview. I had high hopes for biting and deepening political satire, but that isn't quite what materialised.

The show is a whirlwind of noise, colour, movement and mockery of all sides of the political spectrum. Bright, multi-coloured lights illuminate the stage sometimes accompanied by billowing smoke. Songs ran into games and back again with the cast's limitless energy and the script's relentless pace. Judging from the audience's raucous laughter, the songs were a definite highlight. At the beginning, this could definitely be ascribed to the mere sight of the leading lady: flanked by two scantily-clad men, dancing and speak-singing with just the right mixture of woodenness and enthusiasm. But, the lyrics soon provoke the sharpest peals. In a riff on 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' referring to Thatcher's ascension, Matt states "we got one strike and the country got scared". The script is often as sharp and simple as this. He also proclaims that the Tories love the NHS in the same way a teenage girl loves a bad boy- she wants to completely change everything about him. The two dancing assistants are called 'strong' and 'stable' and they are, of course, Tories.

That being said the onslaught of predictable jokes, for example, on nasty Tories and the appearance of a buffoonish Nigel Farage, quickly lose their impact. A little surprisingly, being definitely of the leftie persuasion myself, the material lampooning the Left proved far more funny. There is an Owen Jones, played like a hilarious, elfish, marxist keyboard warrior by one talented half of ‘strong’ and ‘stable’. The same actor gives life to an equally hilarious Nicola Sturgeon puppet. And, of course, the sight of a Christ figure dancing in a Jeremy Corbyn mask to ‘Candy Man’ (Corby Man) is seared into my brain.

If there was some sort of stance to find, it was on stances themselves, and how we shouldn’t take them too seriously. The throwing of stereotypes and rhetoric at the audience commented on how words are employed too hurriedly and meaninglessly in our frenetic political climate; one where a tweet can sink a thousand politicians. But, this had to be looked for underneath the clamour and I'm not entirely sure I didn't wish this intention into existence myself. This is the perfect, hilarious show for the saturated political madness of the moment, but I still prefer my satire to say something. We already know how ridiculous it all is.

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