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Maggie Thatcher: Queen of Game Shows interview

22 June 2017 | Will Rathbone

Maggie Thatcher: Queen of Soho was a 2013 fringe sensation - a cabaret show-cum-short play where Matt Tedford played the titular former prime minister and presented an alternative version of her years in power. Following the show's success, Maggie returned to host her own gameshow, whereby contestants compete to win a Golden Giro cheque. The show returns to the Southbank's Underbelly Festival this year, so we spoke to Matt Tedford and writer Jon Brittain – whose Olivier-winning play Rotterdam also opens at the Arts Theatre this June.

London Calling: Thank you both for speaking to us. How are you today?

Matt Tedford: Great! We’re all geared up for Underbelly and then we’ve got Edinburgh in August - it’s going to be a busy couple of months!

Jon Brittain: Yeah, and we're both keeping an eye on the news to see if we'll need to rewrite Queen of Gameshows… Again!

MT: No! No more rewrites, please! I never thought the day would come when I would pray that the Tory Government stayed in power – well, at least till 27th August anyway.


Image Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

LC: For the uninitiated, please could you tell us a bit about Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Game Shows? What can audiences expect?

JB: Like I said, what they can expect depends entirely on what else happens in the news! If the general election had gone the other way we would have had to completely rewrite it.

MT: What we can guarantee is a fun-filled hour with games, songs, and men in hot pants: all lead by the only British female Prime Minister to actually win a general election. The audience compete for their benefits, and a chance to win the fabulous Golden Giro cheque, by competing in rounds such as ‘Check Your Privilege’, ‘Brexit Through The Gift Shop’ and ‘Fake News'. There's a lot of audience interaction as, unlike Theresa May, I'm not afraid to spend too much time with the general public.

LC: You’ve had enormous success with the Margaret Thatcher shows – why do you think that is?

MT: We're great.

JB: I think people want to engage with politics, but they don't want to be lectured. The Maggie shows rely on irony to make their arguments, so you can be clapping, singing along and enjoying the show whilst taking on board the points we're making.

MT: Plus, who wouldn’t enjoy a night of dirty jokes and disco songs with Mrs T?


Image Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

LC: You must have been inundated with content recently as there seems, to paraphrase Brenda from Bristol, to be an awful lot of politics happening. Do you think the public are more switched on?

MT: In the last 4 years we've had to rewrite shows to accommodate The Scottish Referendum, Brexit, Trump, and #GE2017. Brenda from Bristol doesn't know she's born.

JB: There was a point, post-Brexit, where we had to rewrite a scene six times in six days because everything kept changing.

MT: I still wake up at night in a hot sweat.

JB: On the plus side though, I think the audiences are more engaged - not that they all agree with each other. Some laugh louder at the jokes about Corbyn than others do, but that's quite fun - it helps to build the competitive game show vibe.

LC: Are you looking forward to returning to the Underbelly?

MT: Oh yeah. It's nice to perform the show just across the river from the House of Commons. Not that any of the MPs have come yet. I’m sure they’re far too busy trying to figure out who’s in charge at the moment.  

JB: I think the DUP should come and see the show. A big, gay, drag cabaret show making fun of the Prime Minister behind Section 28 - what could they object to?


Image Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

LC: What’s next in the pipeline for the Margaret Thatcher brand?

JB: What's next for the country? Is there room for a Queen of Soho in Corbyn's Britain? Who knows, though if Labour do get in, there should be better arts funding so at least we can apply for cash to create something new.

MT: They’ve brought back Blankety Blank, Blind Date and The Crystal Maze... Sooner or later they're going to run out of hosts, so I’m sure there’ll be an opportunity for Maggie at some point - and yes, we’re open to offers. If all else fails, she may be needed in the Brexit negotiations.

JB: Or in the next leadership contest.

LC: Finally, what are your current cultural highlights? Anything you’re reading/watching/listening to that you’re really enjoying at the moment?

JB: Better Call Saul is back and is still excellent. I'm really looking forward to Sara Pascoe's new show LadsLadsLads. I saw a preview of Adam Larter's new show L'Art Noveua and that's going to be excellent - completely mad, but excellent. And theatre-wise, I've heard Anatomy of a Suicide at the Royal Court is fantastic, but there's also a little show opening at the Arts Theatre called Rotterdam

Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Game Shows runs at Underbelly Festival, Southbank from June 28 – July 2, and then at Edinburgh Festival Fringe from August 3 – 27. Tickets from £15.50.
Rotterdam runs at the Arts Theatre from June 21 – July 15 and comes highly recommended. Tickets from £15.
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