Comedy review: Margaret Thatcher Queen of Game Shows

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“Where there are points, may we bring prizes.”

Star rating ****

Venue: Assembly George Square Gardens (Venue 3)

These aren’t quite the words of St Francis of Assisi, as famously quoted by Margaret Thatcher upon her entry to Number 10 in 1979, nor quite the words of Sir Bruce Forsyth on Play Your Cards Right. But they aren’t a bad distillation of a generation of neoliberal policymaking – to the winners the spoils! – and they nicely set the tone for Margaret Thatcher Queen of Game Shows, a slyly satirical as well as highly entertaining hour of knockabout fun.

The show is the follow-up to Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho, in which the Iron Lady (Matt Tedford) of 1988 found herself recast as a cabaret sensation following a fictitious change of heart over the homophobic Section 28.

This time, Maggie, once again backed by a duo of Tory dancing boys, is determined to revamp Saturday nights by reframing the benefits system as a glittery light-entertainment battle between strivers and skivers. Cue updated riffs on the likes of Wheel of Fortune and the Crystal Maze ingeniously applied to Brexit, tabloid media and NHS reform.

Tedford’s Thatcher is a real treat: a cracking comic impersonation; a diva fronting glam renditions of 80s hits like Fame and 9 to 5; a terrific responsive cabaret compère; and, dramatically speaking, a moral subject nudged into reconsidering her priorities. That process is enacted here through the model of A Christmas Carol, with Maggie assailed by apparitions of political opponents to keep her on her toes and challenge her approach with the aid of puppetry, dream sequences, even a rap battle.

The ethical journey here is more convincing than Queen of Soho’s; the awkward moments feel largely deliberate. And the politics remain at the service of a pacy sense of showbiz razzle-dazzle, audience-baiting and regular laughs.

Until 28 August. Today 9pm & 1:15am.

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