Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Boris & Sergey / Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho, Theatre503

Review: Boris & Sergey / Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho, Theatre503

Published in the Telegraph, 19.12.2013

Theatre503’s seasonal double bill is more frivolous than festive. Nothing says Christmas like puppets and drag acts… The former are Flabbergast Theatre’s Boris and Sergey, two faceless Russian conmen made out of reconstituted old leather footballs. Their tabletop variety show was a big hit at the Edinburgh Fringe two years ago — now it comes with added tinsel.

Little has changed for the festive revamp. Boris has acquired a little Santa hat and enters atop a Coca Cola Christmas truck. One “daredevil routine” sees Sergei balance on a bauble, avoiding cloves instead of drawing pins, as party poppers stand in for pyrotechnics.

A classic double-act with bawdy banter to spare, they speak in husky honks and have enough character to overcome a distracted show. It’s best as music hall in miniature — Boris’s drag recreation of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights routine is a treat, as are meta-moments when Sergey is biting the hands that lead him — but that doesn’t last the hour. In comes the usual running, flying and Matrix-style slow-mos. It’s well-drilled, but bog-standard.

As for the drag, Dame Edna has an unlikely rival in Matt Tedford’s Margaret Thatcher. First seen as a 15-minute sketch at last June’s Thatcherwrite season, Tedford and Jon Brittain have expanded Magaret Thatcher Queen of Soho to a full hour. The joke is that Britain’s first female PM, whose government passed Section 28, has gone on to cabaret superstardom with a regular slot at G.A.Y. “Where there is disco,” she wheezes nonchalantly, “may we bring harmonies.” Tedford plays “Maggie” without the help of a wig; his voice, a head cold husk; his manner louche but firm. He’s flanked by two moustachioed helpers in hotpants — the wets, Hessell and Tine — who play the cameo roles. Robert Cawsey is a monstrous, gangly Jill Knight and Ed Yelland a hilarious punk-wideboy Peter Tatchell.

For all that this makes the Iron Lady a straw man, it’s a deliciously fitting fate. It’s a joy to imagine her singing ‘It’s Raining Men’ to an adoring Soho crowd. Re-framing her key decisions through rainbow-tinted glasses is more plodding, one Fallingbostel tank miniskirt excepted.

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