Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho, Bristol Tobacco Factory

WHEN you walk on stage and immediately feel that the entire audience is on your side, sympathetic to what you have to offer and on the same comedy wavelength, it must be very tempting to relax, become self-indulgent and not work too hard.

That was the sort of reception Matt Tedford received when he set foot on the stage of the Tobacco Factory looking and sounding ominously like the iron lady of late 20th British politics, Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990.

After many successful sorties to the Edinburgh Fringe festival, and nationwide tours, there is an even bigger temptation for Matthew to perform in automatic gear – but there were no signs of staleness during his two hours on stage, as he took us on a tour of Maggie’s time in office during the debate and vote on the bitterly contested Section 28 legislation.

You would think that Matt and co-author Jon Brittain had just come up with the idea of Maggie finding herself lost in Soho as she ponders on the rights and wrongs of Section 28, changing her mind as she recalls some of those who have equally strong feelings on the subject, including Jill Knight, Member of Parliament for Edgbaston, determined to see the legislation on the statute book, and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, just as determined that it will never see the light of day. This pair and others involved in the debate – and a talking picture of Winston Churchill – are brought to life by Matt’s two assistants, both sporting fierce moustaches and minimal costume changes.

The whole thing is laced with cleverly conceived satirical humour and snatches of 1980s popular songs, many reworked to make you laugh, with new lyrics from Tedford and Brittain. With an audience champing at the bit to join in, there was no shortage of vocal support from the hall whenever they were given the opportunity to musically join the three cast members.

Watching the way Matt Tedford worked the willing audience, you could imagine him having great fun and success playing Dame in a pantomime. At other times with wonderfully telling glances and expertly timed delivery of a comic punchline, you could see him following in the footsteps of a stylish comedian like Dave Allen.

As it is, we have a blue-suited, iron-set-haired and handbag-wielding portrait of Maggie, with vocal delivery that, if you closed your eyes, would make you think you were listening to the lady in full verbal flight.

There is little doubt as to which way the show leans politically, but wrapped in a crisp coating of expertly delivered comedy, with enough of it tongue-in-cheek to take some of the personal sting out of it, even an ardent Thatcherite might find something to enjoy in this fast moving odyssey of LGBT rights.


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