Interview: Matt Tedford (Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho)
What would happen if Margaret Thatcher became a cabaret star in Soho?
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Hello Matt, could you tell us more about the show...
It’s a camp comic cabaret Christmas Extravaganza about Thatcher and the creation of Section 28. It’s got music, dancing, jokes, and a cameo from Ian McKellen in it. It also tells the story of Thatcher getting lost in Soho one night, mistaken for a man in drag, being on the receiving end of homophobia and accidentally becoming a cabaret sensation. So there really is something for everyone whether you are a Thatcher fan or Thatcher foe. Plus we have two dancers in hot pants. That’s worth at least £8 of the ticket price alone.
What made you decide to write this and why now?
Jon Brittain and I originally wrote a short version of the play for the Thatcherwrite festival at Theatre503 back in June as a response to her passing. I had gone to Jon's Halloween party as Thatcher the year before so luckily for me he knew who to play the role. When we were deciding what to write about Section 28 was the obvious choice. It’s been 10 years since it was finally repealed. It was in place throughout my education and I have vivid memories of teachers being asked questions and not responding. To this day I still don’t know whether it was because they couldn’t or wouldn’t. When Thatcher died there were a lot of people complaining that people my age shouldn’t be celebrating because they were too young to remember her time in office but we still had to live with her policies.
The performance is a pretty unconventional production to put on at Christmas. Do you think there’s a warm, fuzzy, Christmas message that we can take from Queen Of Soho?
Absolutely. Personal revelations and night on the tiles with Britain’s first female Prime Minister what isn’t festive about that? It’s the kind of show to come along to with your friends, family or work colleagues and by the end you’ll be up on your feet. That’s what Christmas should be about, enjoying yourselves with the people you love... and Thatcher.
The production has been referred to as ‘less than respectful' by the Daily Telegraph. We imagine that you’re looking forward to hearing what the Daily Mail has to say. What’s the best bad review you’ve ever had?
Who wouldn’t love to be on the Daily Mail’s side bar?! Wedged in between One Direction and Prince Harry. Bliss. I think the Telegraph has to be the best bad review. The oddest thing was that it was an article about the piece before the show even opened and the journalist didn't come to watch. In the same paper a few days later they called us an 'uproarious comedy' in a different article. I don’t actually think we are being ‘less than respectful’ but if they do then we must be doing something right.
What are your personal views on Thatcher? Love her or loathe her?
That’s a really hard question. I’m a gay Northerner with lefty liberal parents, true blue grandparents, a family history of mining and a love of a good power suit. I wouldn’t dance on her grave but I wouldn’t have voted for her either.
If Maggie had become a star of the Soho cabaret scene after her time in office, what do you think her opening number would be?
It would have to be a big solo number. I can’t imagine she’d enjoy doing a duet. ‘I’m every woman’ perhaps? I’d love to see her do a rendition of ‘And I am telling you’ to her cabinet.
Do you think political theatre is still important in a world where commercial, light-hearted musicals seem to be taking over playhouses?
I think there needs to be a balance. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t like Wicked because I do. And all theatre is a great medium for public commentary. What’s great about this piece is that we combine the politics with the light hearted. Glitter and Government. One of the great things about working at Theatre503 is that they are passionate about new work and giving writers a voice in theatre.
Do you think that if Thatcher had actually let her hair down in Soho a lot more frequently, recent history could have turned out differently in terms of gay rights?
I think all politicians should let their hair down once in a while. I don’t know if I fancy seeing Cameron in Fire though. I’d like to think that things could have been different but once she’d made up her mind there was no going back.
Margaret Thatcher’s Section 28 is, in many ways, a close parallel to the legislation which is currently being passed through Russian courts regarding the promotion of homosexuality. Aside from all the fun and frivolity, do you think Queen Of Soho has an important comment to make about the world we live in today?
I really do. It shows that no matter how far we in this country have come, as a global community we still have so much to continue to fight for. Section 28 was a horrific and shameful piece of legislation and we need to remember not to let history repeat itself.
Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho runs from 10 Dec to 4 Jan at Theatre503, London. To book tickets, visit the Theatre503 website.
See the trailer here...
Words: Lee Dalloway & Calum Cochrane