Little Madam

James Graham

Brawl in association with the Finborough Theatre

Finborough Theatre

(2007)

Review by Zia Trench

A nostalgic, accurate whip through the Thatcher years, enchanting acting and slick directing make this a play you will remember.

The tiny stage is transformed into the wonderfully warped bedroom of the even more wonderfully warped little Madam. The suggestion is hardly subtle - ‘Thatcher in Wonderland’ - as the child’s toys emerge from closets and surreal sound/lighting is used for scene changes.

Although I’m not keen on picking out specific actors for praise, I have to in this case! Catherine Skinner who played Margaret Roberts was spell-bindingly brilliant; not only as the obstinate, petulant red-headed child but her characterisation of her adult-self, Thatcher, must have been perfected through studying hours of old footage; the quizzical, lopsided expression and stiff, unyielding posture. The next second she’d flip back to being the precocious, squeaky kid from Grantham. The toys who, in role play, became characters in Thatcher’s future, e.g. Dennis and Cecil Parkinson, were played convincingly and entertainingly too.

And since I’m singling out Skinner, I should single out the director too; Kate Wasserberg managed to make five full-grown adults on a tiny set, not look over-crowded. It was only after the play when I walked across the stage (all two steps) that I realised what an amazing feat she achieved!

For me, having studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics, this was an entertaining revision course but without this (or my age!), you’d know what’s coming; the obsession with free market forces, the election wins, Falklands War, her ruthless culling of Ministers, the non-negotiations with the IRA and the annihilation of the Unions.

Towards the end of the first half, my attention did start to stray. I think this was due to the enchanting premise wearing off and perhaps the play was veering a little too much into reportage. But the second half instantly whipped entertainment back on track and even developed a depth and complexity to the character that then carried you right through.

For a two hour play, the pace never lagged, just as the pace of the woman who emblazoned her name on an entire decade, never lagged either.

Until 27th October