What would happen if Margaret Thatcher had given up politics and become a gay icon?
That is the unlikely question that inspired English actor/comedian Matt Tedford and comedy writer Jon Brittain to create their camp, high-energy cabaret show Queen of Soho.
The three-person production premiered more than two years ago and has enjoyed sell-out seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe and London’s West End, as well as earning some impressive reviews. The Adelaide performance, however, will be its first and only appearance in Australia.
“Adelaide will be one of the last places people are ever able to see Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho,” Tedford says.
“It’s sad it’s going to end, but I’m excited to be going out with a bang.”
Tedford says that even after her death, Thatcher remains a polarising figure in modern Britain. The enduring fascination with her uniqueness makes her an ideal subject for a stage show.
“Margaret Thatcher still gets a big reaction.
“She’s one of those people that everyone has an opinion on, whether you voted for her or whether you’re even interested in politics.”
The plot for the show revolves around the controversial Section 28, a law enacted under Thatcher’s government that banned the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools. It holds special significance for Tedford, who grew up in England during the Thatcher era and now plays her himself.
“That law was introduced the year I was born and it wasn’t repealed till the year that I left formal education, so I went all the way through school as a closeted gay child under Section 28.”
With Australia still debating gay marriage, Tedford’s Thatcher couldn’t arrive at a more relevant time. And despite the protagonist being a British icon, he is confident Australian audiences will be just as receptive.
“We’ve got loads of Australian friends who’ve come to the show and understood it, been educated by it and seen the similarities with Australian culture.
“There’s a few things in there you might not get, but it’s not one of those shows where you need to know everything.”
Surprisingly, Tedford says the performance actually makes Thatcher a likeable figure.
“Fans of Thatcher expect the show to be Thatcher bashing, because that’s what we’re used to, but a lot of them come away saying we’ve been kind.”
Tedford and Brittain say their willingness to constantly rewrite and adapt the show over the years has kept it relevant and reserved them a consistent space on stage.
“Things change so much on a weekly basis in politics that we have to throw around new lines, new scenes and new references to where we are … people will come and see us three or four times because it changes every night,” Tedford says.
He believes everyone will enjoy the show – but audiences should be prepared for a big night out.
“We’re about putting the fun back in theatre.
“We’ll get you up dancing, singing, shouting, laughing – you name it, we’ve got everything.”
Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho will be at the Space Theatre from June 15-17 as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
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