Off the Kerb Productions have brought this show to the Fringe before, and it became an absolute hit – one of the highlights of the festival for many people. They are back this year, and while the format is basically the same, this continues to be a perfect example of just what is possible when enough imagination and energy are put behind an idea for a show which is completely off the chain.
Matt Tedford, portraying the Iron Lady, launches himself into the world of Saturday night entertainment. In doing so, he actively pays tribute to the games shows of yester-year hosted by the likes of Cilla Black and Bruce Forsythe – who both appear in the show. It is a titanic performance from Tedford, who is so immersed in the character that the idea of anyone else filling this role is unimaginable. There is a brilliant air of poking fun and ridicule that, while possibly more accessible for those who lived through Thatcherism itself, is something which everyone can laugh at. This atmosphere is never lost because Tedford has total control with his commanding stage presence and voice. It is an hour of light entertainment and political debauchery, dictated by its eponymous star.
Thatcher calls people out from the audience to get them to participate in a variety of games, such as using a wrecking ball to knock down an NHS tower block and completing a Brexit obstacle course. It is great fun to watch these games, and those who do not compete still get to cheer and applaud and feel involved in the show.
Between the games, Thatcher performs musical numbers interwoven with a plotline intentionally similar to A Christmas Carol, chosen possibly because of the irony of referencing a story that embodies Dickens’ socialist views. These are also incredibly entertaining, with a variety of other political figures coming into play such as Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn. The best by far is Angela Merkel, who almost steals the show out from underneath Thatcher’s nose during their duet of ‘Anything Goes’ from Annie Get Your Gun and remains a thorn in the former Prime Minister’s side for the rest of the show. That such a well-rehearsed show can still make room to include recent political events speaks wonders to the talent and adaptability of all the cast.
The effect of all of these factors put together is not just the occasional chuckle or snigger. It is sixty minutes of full-blown hysterics. This show causes pain in the stomach muscles and makes jaw bones throughout the venue ache. The jokes are never flat or cliché; they all hit the mark spectacularly. This also makes the show immensely engaging, so those watching will never miss a moment of what is quickly becoming a Fringe classic.
Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Game Shows incorporates so much of what makes a perfect comedy show. It is well written, it involves its audience and never stops feeling fresh. Those who have still to see this show will not be disappointed. In fact, even their best expectations will not come close to how much they will enjoy this monumental piece of Fringe magic.
Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Game Shows
Assembly @ George Square Gardens
Until 28th August (not 14th).
Image: Andy Hollingworth