From British daily The Morning Star:
The Shaw Theatre, London NW1
Wednesday 15 April 2009
by James Eagle
Thatcher‘s end deserves a more damning obituary than this offering
RONALD Reagan showed us how it’s going to be. The former US president was practically made a saint after his death in 2004 – the man who brought down the evil empire and freed the markets from the tyranny of government.
And we can expect the same when his close ally Margaret Thatcher finally shuffles off this mortal coil – at least from the right-wing media and a Labour government which took most of its inspiration from her.
But there are millions who will remember a different history entirely and would rather dance on her grave than praise her. Which is where Maggie’s End comes in, playing in London to mark the 25th anniversary of the miners’ strike.
It’s 2010, King Charles is on the throne and Leon (Mark Wingett), an embittered old north-eastern lefty who’s replaced activism with alcohol, has his mother’s funeral interrupted by the news that Thatcher‘s turned up her toes – and probably “closed down half the furnaces” in Hell already.
He’s delighted, as befits a man who was jailed for not paying the poll tax, and so is his wife Suzy (Melanie Hill).
Less so Leon’s daughter Rosa (Johanne Murdock), a bright young star of the new Labour government who’s sleeping with slimy Home Secretary Neil Callaghan (Russell Floyd).
She long ago sold her principles for a shot at power and to her falls the task of announcing to the nation that Thatcher will get a full state funeral.
Leon rediscovers his campaigning fire as he sets about organising mass protests to disrupt the funeral – igniting family tensions as he tries to argue Rosa around and as MI5 start rooting through Suzy’s personal life.
Co-writer Ed Waugh has said that this clash, not an anti-Thatcher tirade, was intended to be the focus of his and Trevor Woods’s play. But in truth, Maggie’s End falls uncomfortably between the two.
There are frequent flashes of biting wit and high farce but never the sustained savage humour of great polemic. And while the first half’s closing clash between Leon and Rosa – a fine fiery showdown between his ideals and her pragmatism – is a high point, Rosa has too little stage time and is written with too little conviction for this to make for great drama.
Still, there’s plenty to admire in Maggie‘s End and plenty of reasons to catch it before it closes.
There are fine performances all round – particularly from Floyd, whose Callaghan could give The New Statesman’s Alan B’Stard a run for his money, and Hill as the energetic foil to the drink-sodden Leon.
Its pacing is sharp, there are plenty of barbed lines to raise a laugh in the most jaded of Leon-alikes and the subject matter alone will be enough to invigorate many a leftwinger.
But it’s not as powerful as it might have been. When they come to lay Thatcher and new Labour in the ground, they both deserve a more damning obituary than Maggie’s End manages to deliver.
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