The Street Theatre to 12 February 2017
Review by Len Power 10 February 2017
After seeing Pip Utton’s excellent ‘Churchill’ performance, I was looking forward very much to seeing what he would do with Margaret Thatcher. I wasn’t disappointed.
Playing an actor, Simon, performing a one person play as Margaret Thatcher, Pip Utton draws us carefully into this monodrama where Thatcher first appears in the actor’s mind as he makes up, dresses and prepares for a performance. We then observe Simon give a full-blooded performance as Thatcher onstage.
The construction of this play is clever and unexpected. It quickly becomes apparent that Simon/Utton wants us to take his performance seriously, just as Margaret Thatcher demanded from the Press, colleagues and the people.
Bringing up the house lights, Thatcher invited questions from the audience. The mood was relaxed and we were expecting a good laugh. In one of the first questions, an audience member made the mistake of addressing her as ‘Margaret’ and was quickly and firmly put in his place. It was funny but from that moment on you realized her responses would be deadly serious and, if you were going to ask a question, it had better be well-considered. We changed instantly from audience to members of the Press and it was edgy and unnerving.
The question and answer period makes up the bulk of the play and Pip Utton never falters in his responses in spite of the very specific and often well-framed questions asked by the audience. Even a question about Donald Trump received a considered and serious response. There were still plenty of funny moments where Thatcher engaged with the people asking questions.
It was electrifying to see the command of the stage that Pip Utton had throughout the performance. Knowing it’s a male actor playing a male actor playing Margaret Thatcher, we don’t really expect him to look exactly like Thatcher but in profile he actually did look like her. Even without knowing the questions the audience would ask, he gave quite detailed responses, showing his superb knowledge of Thatcher and her time in office.
The end of the play contains another surprise which I won’t reveal but it added yet another valid and satisfying dimension to this remarkable show.
Pip Utton created something magical on that stage with ‘Maggie’ and it’s something you shouldn’t miss!
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s ‘Artcetera’ program from 9am on Saturdays as well as other selected Artsound programs.