BWW Reviews: MAGGIE, MAGGIE, MAGGIE *** *** ***, Hackney Empire, September 1 2012
"Feeling rather strange when you're sixteen again
Things don't seem the same the past is so plain
This future is our future this time's not a game
This time you're sixteen again."
Never mind the politics, that was The Buzzcocks and that's how many of the audience for "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie ***, ***, *** (part of the Ha Ha Hackney Festival until 9 September) felt, as kitsch 80s hits boomed out and larger-than-then backsides eased into seats.
Having got off to a pulsating start with GRAEAE's Reasons to be Cheerful Band (fresh from the Paralympics Opening Ceremony) belting out Ian Dury and the Blockheads classics, the evening's tone was set by Arthur Smith in a mullet wig and a shellsuit. Yes, The Eighties, in all their gory glory, were back.
HarDeep Singh Kohli was first up with reflections on how the riots of 2011 had their roots in Thatcher's Britain (and had plenty of differences too - multiculturalism having embedded itself in the bad and ugly, as well as the good). 80s stalwarts Jenny Lecoat and Mike Mole re-interpreted Madonna's greatest hits for her fifty-something contemporaries, cruelly underlining how age gets to everyone (except maybe La Madonna herself).
With Arthur Smith wandering down Memory Lane with his old joke book linking the acts and Tony Slattery chipping in as an inevitably buffoonish Boris Johnson, Terry Alderton provided a surreal edge with a splendid routine that featured a “pixie” and a conversation between his two diamante pumps.
Lording it (or should that be Ladying it?) over the show was Mrs T herself, as Steve Nallon terrified North London one last time. A quarter of a century after he first occupied The Iron Lady, Nallon is still her, unchanged, locked into the twin sets, the walk and the low empathetic voice peppered with the shrill commanding register that famously made her “the only man in the cabinet”. It's as an extraordinary a portrayal as ever – Nallon has been “Mrs T” longer than she has!
It was all crowd-pleasing stuff for a house keen to have their tummies tickled, leavened with just enough contemporary satire to remind us that things ain't what they used to be – they're even worse.