"YES. YES. YES. Simply Marvellous"
by remotegoat reviewer for remotegoat on 01/11/16

For people of my age, Margaret Thatcher was a permanent and pervasive presence throughout our childhood (I was born the summer before she became Prime Minister); she and her government would be the most important political influence on our lives and development. Of course I myself had very little knowledge of the people or their policies other than that, according to my brother’s badge (he’s nine years my senior) Maggie ‘snatched’ his milk - and by extension mine; also, Kenneth Baker gave me occasional - very welcome - days off school while my teachers attended ‘Baker Days’.
But that’s not what this play is about. It’s a fine political comedy which cannot help but enchant, amuse and entertain anyone with knowledge or experience of the ’80’s. And when I say amuse I mean really, properly make you laugh, I very rarely laugh aloud at any entertainment (even when I find it funny) but I guffawed at this!
There are tender moments too - the scene following the death of Ian Gow particularly springs to mind, but also - much as I hate to admit it with my solid lefty heritage - the loneliness of Thatcher at the end. I’m not spoiling things - we all know how the story has to end. The drama and the comedy comes from examining the people involved, their loyalties, lack of loyalties and the way they interact in the bizarre world of Westminster (sounds like potential there for some kind of online political RPG...). There is an absolutely outstanding scene where phone calls are batted back and fourth between Lawson, Howe, his Private Secretary and the Cabinet Secretary.
I can’t eulogise enough on the cast, so I won’t. Only to say that the three main characters of Geoffrey Howe, Margaret Thatcher and Elspeth Howe are played fabulously by Paul Bradley, Steve Nallon and Carol Royle respectively. I don’t think one can avoid seeing a certain similarity between Carol Royle’s Elspeth and the character of Annie Hacker in Yes Minister; both incredibly capable, sane, strong and supportive women: and if you’re to be compared to a character in another comedy, surely there’s none better in this context.
There is I suppose a question around casting a man as Margaret Thatcher, when we famously have such shortage of meaty roles for women ‘of a certain age’ but Steve Nallon will for ever be associated with Thatcher by anyone who watched Spitting Image. Also, and this may be just me, in my view Thatcher is in a way beyond gender, maybe I say that partly because even though the first female Prime Minister was a massive event, in the end she did very little to further the cause of gender equality. Something this play also looks at.
My hat really comes off to Graham Seed, Christopher Villiers and John Wark who form a kind of chorus: keeping us, the audience, abreast of where we are in the story as well as each playing at least three roles (Seed = 3, Wark = 5).
The meat of the story is how a rift develops between the PM and her closest ally (sound familiar Blair / Brown?) and how the question of our relationship with Europe deepens political divides (again, how times have[n’t] changed!). Finally Howe has to make a choice between loyalty to a leader and friend who has treated him badly but has made his career and the political suicide of sticking to his beliefs but keeping the respect and support of the woman he loves. In the end we know that the man described by Denis Healey as being like a dead sheep when on the attack (hence the title of the show) turns out to be a wolf beneath, delivering a great, crippling blow to his one-time ally.
Like all the best stories, Love and Right come through in the end. But this was also true: would you expect it to happen now? Maybe some things have changed.

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