Have you ever wondered what the Australian political landscape would look like if Gough Whitlam survived the 1975 Constitutional Crisis, if Tony Abbott didn’t eat that onion, or if Harold Holt had decided to go for a cycle rather than a swim? This sort of political ‘what if’ is the exact platform utilised in Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho – a story where the Iron Lady takes a wrong turn into the bars of Soho, resulting in her becoming the next gay icon, and racing to overturn the controversial, homophobic Section 28.
Margaret Thatcher, the drag diva portrayed by Matt Tedford, had “no intention of putting on a pantomime” in Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho unless, of course, it suited her political agenda. The pantomimic 70 minutes that follows ranged from the ridiculous to the more ridiculous.
The show, fresh with critical acclaim from the United Kingdom, makes no apology for its foreign content and cultural references. The smattering of Australian references made little difference to the largely indifferent Adelaide Cabaret Festival crowd, who perhaps expected a Meryl Streep performance rather than Draggie Maggie.
Matt Tedford, and his short shorts wearing troupe, valiantly attempted to engage the crowd, but only Winston Churchill and his unscripted and self-deprecating observations made any headway. This prolonged exchange was the undoubted highlight of the evening.
The music throughout Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho is a romp through the classics – opening with ‘YMCA’ and culminating, appropriately, with ‘It’s Raining Men’. This show, however, is certainly not about the music. Matt Tedford’s characterisation of Maggie simply doesn’t permit musicality.
Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho is an incredibly important cabaret production. Anything that critically investigates the effect that politics and politicians have on families and the community is vital. This story, with this audience, missed the mark. Perhaps Adelaide Cabaret Festival audiences should do more homework, because Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho is a brilliant show, which clearly requires audience participation and buy in to reach its potential.