Meet the Real Maggie Thatcher
Mike Francis Carvalho
On 07 March 2015
Review by Richard Vergette
Calling a play Meet the Real Maggie Thatcher might seem disconcerting given that it's two years since the Iron Lady’s demise, however, since Mike Francis Carvalho’s fascinating one-man show has been drawn from conversations with real people, it’s an oddly appropriate one.
It’s difficult not to descend into cliché when talking about Thatcher—“Best/worst post-war prime minister” (delete according to taste), “like her or hate her, she got things done”, “You knew what she stood for” etc. etc. So what on earth can a play about her tell us any more than we know or could ever want to know? She’s like World War 2 on the History Channel or Yesterday. We’ve heard it all before and it’s time to move on. And yet...
Mike Francis Carvalho’s play, too, could easily descend into cliché. It’s an assortment of monologues from characters directly affected by her more than a decade rule. Perhaps, inevitably, a striking miner provides the central moments of the play but there is also a police officer, a soldier and a school teacher among others.
However, it’s far from clichéd. The police officer is softly spoken and disillusioned, the school teacher confused rather than angry by the implications of Section 28 (one of the more pernicious policies of the latter era of Thatcher—banning the ‘promotion’ of homosexual material. Fortunately it was as bonkers as it was nasty and, therefore, never enforced).
Whilst it’s very clear that the soul of the play is anti-Thatcher, the depiction of the characters and their stories is respectful, carefully drawn and sympathetic. This is less of a rant and more of a critique—but still executed with passion, conviction and sensitivity.
What we’re left with is a sense of anger but also a sense of loss and disappointment over a wasted generation. It’s a hard hitting piece when it needs to be but a reflective one nonetheless.
Key to the play’s success is Mike Francis Carvalho’s performance. He’s able to present us with a depiction of several three-dimensional characters and do it movingly, convincingly and without recourse to overblown stereotype. That is something of a feat and judging by the comments in the Q and A afterwards, many in the audience felt that we had witnessed something quite special.