Posts Tagged ‘‘Melmoth Darkleigh’’

Bad Taste Alert: Spoof Medium Tries to Contact Spirit of Maggie Thatcher

April 14, 2014


Last Friday’s I newspaper contained news of a couple of theatre shows sending up the former prime minister. According to the article by Alice Jones, ‘Hold On To Your Handbags. Mrs T Is Back’, one was a Handbagged, about the relationship between Thatcher and the Queen, while in the other the spoof medium, Melmoth Darkleigh, attempted to commune with the Leaderene’s spirit. The I said of this act

On Tuesday night, one comedian marked the anniversary of the former prime minister’s death by holding a séance for Thatcher at Leicester Square Theatre. This was Nathaniel Tapley, in character as the medium and “ghost heckler” Melmoth Darkleigh. Before the show opened he was deemed a “sick bile merchant”.

“The point was to make people angry, as well as to make them laugh. The coverage of Mrs Thatcher’s death last year was almost entirely hagiographic”, he wrote in the British Comedy Guide. “It sought to rewrite her history, only daring, in some instances to call her ‘divisive'”. And what of the criticism that he is exploiting the death of an old lady for crass commercial gain? “I like to think it’s what she would have wanted”.

The I went on to say that it wasn’t as harshly critical as it appeared.

The show was more silly than satirical – mixed bag of mind-reading tricks using Thatcher biographies, poems about Michael Gove (“Michael Gove, Michael Gove/ Your clothes form the rent hair of teachers are wove…”) and a rabidly anti-PC Tory MP character called Ian Bowler.

It concluded by considering that Maggie is still the butt of jokes because she had absolutely no sense of humour.

It is strange that a year after her death and almost a quarter of a century after she left power, Thatcher is still the butt of so many jokes. She famously had no time for humour herself. According to her biographer Charles Moore, “These things called jokes, which have punch lines and a set-up … she had absolutely no understanding of them whatsoever.” And therein perhaps is the key to her comic longevity. Straight-faced always makes for a better stooge. And there were none straighter than the Iron Lady’s.

This merely reduces Maggie and her legacy to Margot Leadbetter, the Good’s humourless, snobbish, and very middle-class neighbour, played by Penelope Keith in the BBC comedy series, The Good Life. This is no doubt part of her comedy potential, but the real reason people are sending her up 25 years after the end of her reign is the fact that she still casts a very long shadow over British politics. The problems of contemporary Britain from MPs fiddling their expenses, to the economic destruction of British manufacturing industry and the attacks on the welfare state all derive from and are a continuation of her policies. Even the Labour leader, Tony Blair, invited her to visit him at 10 Downing street when he took power, while Gordon Brown suggested that she should be given a state funeral, partly to appease the righteous anger of the Tory faithful, for whom she is a greater figure than Winston Churchill. One Tory wanted to have one of the Bank Holidays renamed in her honour. On the other side of the political divide, she is still so hated that when she died, celebrations broke out. Hence the desire to mock, satirise and attack the woman, who dominated parliament for 13 years, and whose policies still blight people’s lives.