As the Conservative Party Conference prepares to arrive at Birmingham this weekend, Jonathan Maitland’s Dead Sheep, which recounts the events of Geoffrey Howe’s speech that ended the reign of Margaret Thatcher, possesses an extraordinary poignancy.
It is this poignancy which ensures such a minute moment of history can remain entertaining for audiences who both observed the events, or, like me, were not even born. With Thatcher’s assertion that ‘No one would put a man in a beard in a position of power. Not even the Labour party’, the play has a real knowing quality.
Coupled with the hauntingly considerate movements of Steve Nallon’s Margaret Thatcher, domineering in Prime Minister’s Questions but squirmingly uncomfortable as Paul Bradley’s Howe destroys her in front of her colleagues. Bradley’s performance encompasses the nuances of Howe’s placid and bumbling misdemeanour, and is foiled by Carol Royle as Elspeth, his wife: the only person brave enough to consistently take on Thatcher.
Whilst some of the storytelling direct address ensemble moments felt awkward, they provided light comments on the narrative and the piece would have a different tone without them. Dead Sheep succeeded in presenting a narration on essential Conservative history without it being a political piece of theatre. Instead, it creates something that sees a humorous depiction of a real human collision.