"Funny moments, but little insight"
by Maddy Ryle for remotegoat on 14/02/08

I don't know for sure, but I'm imagining Tom Green has a decade or so on my 26 years, so undoubtedly his memories and relationship to Thatcher's legacy is going to be different from my own. A playwright of my own age wouldn't, I don't imagine, see the same dramatic potential in the old lady's passing.

That's not to say I don't see her as an important figure - I imbibed my parent's loathing of her with my mother's milk in the early Eighties. But it does ultimately mean that this is a play which is more about memory itself than it is about Mrs Thatcher per se, and as a result feels somewhat self-indulgent and cut off from its audience. As others have noted (the fringe production has received quite a bit of publicity thanks to its title), this seems like a lost opportunity to say something more biting and insightful about the current state of the nation, which Thatcher herself did so much to define.

The play has three tropes going on within it. It opens in a television studio with the ambitious but horribly naïve Jonelle (played by Alex Topham Tyerman) announcing the news of Thatcher's death. Over the course of the play (which lasts an hour but spans the week or so leading up to the controversial funeral), Jonelle's attempts to launch a stellar career by virtue of this major story are amusingly hijacked by her equally shallow ands bitchy colleagues. These scenes are the funniest in the play - and I guess the most "controversial", with Leanne Elms' very funny reporter Dana's account of a northern ex-miner whose pilgrimage to London to spit on Thatcher's grave has garnered a hoard of 100,000 fellow travellers.

The second strand is delivered as a monologue to the audience by the brilliantly cast John Elnaugh as the undertaker, Dudley, whose firm is chosen to look after the Iron Lady's last rites. There is something slightly Alan Bennett about his mundane melancholia, sad humour, alcoholism and sinister undertones (he harbours longings to be a hangman), and his is by far the most convincing performance in the production.

Unfortunately, it is the third story which is both the most prominent and the weakest. Alan Freestone plays Hoagy, a well-educated man whose life starts to unravel when he is shocked by his grief at the news of Thatcher's death. He consults a therapist (Pamela Hall), whose infuriating refusal to surmise on his condition (or even speak) allow Hoagy to expound an equally infuriating self analysis. In the end it's all about him not grieving for his mother when he was a child, but if this was supposed to be an allegory about Thatcher's having been a somehow problematic 'mother' for her 'children', then there needed to be a much more satisfying exploration of what her reign really meant for Britain.

If Green wanted to risk making a play about a topic that is becoming anachronistic to a new generation of theatre-goers, then he needed to treat his viewers' intelligence with a much more far-reaching analysis of his subject matter. In the end this is a competent script and some good acting stretched desperately thin over a poorly constructed production that fails to deliver on its premise.

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