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Thatcher-Rite | Arts Depot

Three guesses what this show is about, and no, it’s not a think piece on why Thatchers Cider is the alcoholic beverage for a summer’s day. Thatcher-Rite, which is written and performed by Jack Boal, has appeared at Camden People’s Theatre and has another upcoming date at Sheffield Theatres on the 8th of June. But these venues will not hold the same historical weight, compared to artsdepot in North Finchley. After all, it’s where our dearest Maggie Thatcher, Britain’s first female Prime Minister, started off her tumultuous political career.

It is unclear whether this depiction of Thatcher the Milk Snatcher is meant to pay a sort of homage or question the idea of a tortured villain. Whatever way, it was smashing. Boal effortlessly stepped into his character, having clearly spent time getting the movements and speech relatively close to the real deal, but the best part is the Drag-ness of portraying Thatcher. Her cobalt blue dress, pink heels, over-exaggerated makeup and wig, paired with her bag-of-mass-destruction, were all eye catching on stage (Corinna Francavilla), and one couldn’t help but keenly follow her every move. The comedic timing of her off-stage strops left participating audience members gawkily sitting at the centerpiece tea table. Such a caricature of Thatcher, one can only wonder if the tyrant herself would be woefully unimpressed... 

Lighting, props, stage, sound and video design were all intentionally thought out and elevated the show. It isn’t hard to imagine that its complex design would make it harder to pull off at regular Drag Shows, although it would fit right into Ru Paul’s famed Snatch Game. Boal and team (director Lila Robirosa and sound Damian Pace) incorporated video clips of interviews, news bulletins and historical footage of Thatcher during her reign; they were selectively used and timed well enough to help stir up memories for those that had lived experience of her tenure. It further solidified that this show is not just about the performer, but about the legacy that it left on Britain’s people. At its core, “anything for a quiet life” was the audience mood, who, whilst clearly pondering this character study, were visibly uncomfortable at the fact that this show was not your average escapism theatre; it required thoughts. 

The way that props transgressed being a plot-device only on stage and untouchable to our audience, like the handing out of the bland cucumber sandwiches (somebody sack the caterer!), pouring the tea, eating biscuits etc., convincingly broke down the Fourth Wall. Boal channeled Thatcher in such a way that the randomised audience participants were visibly uncomfortable, as if talking to the politician herself. 

Almost as if Boal saw it coming, the show got an unexpected additional layer of meaning, with big news that a General Election has been called. Thatcher-Rite is such a relevant political think piece. It’s not just about Thatcher. It’s about the British people’s relationship with their politicians and the hierarchy of power. Thatcher-Rite was an utter delight to watch from beginning to end. The spontaneity of the involved audience members, as well as the moral question of celebrating the death of a politician, all fit together without feeling preachy. There were endless laughs at the absurdity of what was being watched, whilst also creating space for pondering bigger, more serious thoughts.

Boal and team have created something incredibly special, it’s not just a gimmick! It will continue to poke fun at our Iron Lady and is definitely not for turning.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by James Klug


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