dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Political comedy sees the downfall of Margaret Thatcher
Jonathan Maitland's comedy drama recreates the last days of the Margaret Thatcher regime – seen largely through the eyes of former Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe. The play centres on the relationship between the two characters as it moves from close friendship and political understanding to lack of confidence and a final split.
Culminating in Howe's resignation speech which ultimately led to the downfall of the former Prime Minister, Dead Sheep reveals a man torn between loyalties to his leader and his beliefs.
Actor Steve Nallon, who voiced Mrs Thatcher in the satirical puppet show Spitting Image in the 1980s and 1990s, takes the role of the Iron Lady, bringing an immediate touch of humour to her character. Dressed throughout in a blue skirt suit, pearls and carrying the signature handbag, Nallon's Margaret is a hawk, ever watchful of those around her and yet convinced she can bully them into submission.
Paul Bradley in the role of Howe wins the audience's support for his conviction and determination to do what he believes to be the right thing in the face of all the consequences it will bring. Carol Royle is his wife Elspeth, who stands by her man and clearly loathes the Prime Minister.
The rest of the characters are taken by a trio of actors with special mention going to Christopher Villiers for his lecherous Alan Clark and his blustering Bernard Ingham.
Directed by Ian Talbot and designed by Morgan Large, the production flirts from homes to offices to Parliament with ease – all watched over by a giant photograph of Mrs Thatcher and her 1989 Cabinet – in which Howe sits at her right hand.
Seve Nallon and Paul Bradley as Thatcher and Howe
The play may be based on events taking place in 1990, but it is particularly prescient at the moment as much of the division between Howe and Thatcher was based on their opposing views over Britain's role in Europe. Maitland's dialogue features comments which sit very much today in the Brexit and non-Brexit debates.
The play's title comes from a comment made by opposition MP Denis Healey in which he compared Howe's criticism to being 'saved by a dead sheep' but Maitland's play makes clear that, while Howe may not have been a wolf in sheep's clothing, there was certainly more to him than a 'follow the leader' herd animal.
Dead Sheep comes to Birmingham just ahead of the Conservative Party Conference and it would be interesting to know how many delegates will have a ticket.