The late Baroness Margaret Theatre was not only regarded by many as notorious and infamous for her political polices, but she is often known for her close collaborations with her Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe. However, what transpires when her associate perceives her current decision to be utter poppycock? The Park Theatre’s production of Jonathan Maitland’s, ‘Dead Sheep’, categorically was a disappointing piece of playwriting which was accompanied by shameful performances.
‘Dead Sheep’ is set over the course of the end of Margaret Thatcher’s reign as Prime Minister where we are introduced to former Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe who is at the end of his tether with the Iron Lady’s opinions about Europe. As well as, he is aggravated by her aloof attitude to those in the Houses of Parliament. When he returns to his treasured home, which is not actually owned by him to his gutsy wife, Elspeth Howe, she makes it very clear that his work is making him increasingly unhappy and that he should resign from his job immediately so that he can retain his sanity, and with his wife’s assistance he is planning to obliterate her with a harsh speech. Throughout the performance, we can see how cut-throat the political arena is, such as the fraught conversations that Geoffrey and Thatcher have with each other as she declares that he and his wife must vacate their beloved home as he has been demoted to Deputy Prime Minister. Conversely, when the national press and the television broadcasters become involved, it enables you to see why Geoffrey is not the most confident of speakers and interviewee, this is clearly established when he is participating in a television interview with Weekend World’s, Brian Walden (John Wark) and with Yorkshire press representative, Bernard Ingham (Tim Wallers). Noticeably, they’re trying to seek out information as to expose his plans to destroy Thatcher with a painful message to show his lack of support and confidence as leader of the United Kingdom’s government. At the finale, we see Geoffrey standing up in a televised transmission where he presents his speech, we can see how much on effect it has on the Iron Lady, and with this desertion from Geoffrey it leads to other members of her cabinet to feel the same. Maitland’s narrative does appear quite disjointed in places as he has concentrated more on the comedy aspect rather than focusing on the raw and tense period that Geoffrey and Thatcher are experiencing.
One found the performances by the company of, ‘Dead Sheep’ to be somewhat mediocre as some moments became immensely dull and not that amusing. Steve Nallon is substandard as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher; especially within the facial expressions which looked too cartoonish for my liking, but he does provide some fetching elements such as the movements where we see how his walk is identical to how Thatcher actually walked herself. James Wilby is satisfactory as the former Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe; for example he becomes quite uncharismatic where he is trying to be the driving force that can signify the downfall as the Iron Lady but he does this unsuccessfully. Jill Baker is agreeable as Geoffrey’s wife, Elspeth; exclusively when she tries to perform the role of his frosty wife, additionally; she does tend to lose her harsh presence which means we lose our focus on her portrayal.
Ian Talbot’s direction is unpleasant here as he has not been able to create a thought-provoking show about the decline of a relationship that became quite well-known and the characterisations at times seemed extremely under-developed which made me quite despondent towards the entire performance. Morgan Large’s design is horrible as there are too many scenes where the visibility became too restricting and even the set looked like someone had designed it within a matter of hours, and not up to the professional standard required for an Off West End production. Overall, the experience of, ‘Dead Sheep’ was a disgraceful portrayal of how Margaret Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe’s relationship ended.