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Pip Utton: Playing Maggie

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Pip Utton dons the guise of the Iron Lady to answer the questions you always wanted to ask in an exhilarating, ambitious production.

Image of Pip Utton: Playing Maggie
Note: This review is from the 2015 Fringe

@ Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, until Sun 30 Aug 2015 @ 12:00

Pip Utton is a brave man.  It appears there are no historical monoliths too great for him to attempt to scale.  Hitler, Chaplin, Dickens; he is nothing if not ambitious.  Margaret Thatcher may be his biggest challenge yet.  Certainly, she is the most divisive character he has played, neither fully adored nor reviled – and he is willing to go on stage and not only act as the Iron Lady; but allow the audience to ask questions and to answer them as Maggie.  Yes; a brave man.

Interestingly, Utton doesn’t begin the show as Maggie, but as another actor preparing to play Maggie.  This allows him to establish a contextual framework with an emotional core, and to comment on the nature of performance itself.

Once Maggie herself in unleashed it is nothing short of stunning.  He is Maggie.  It felt a little, well, grubby to be standing, cheering and clapping for this figure.  Not only are the mannerisms, stance, and speech patterns immaculate; but the amount of research must have been exhaustive.  The audience were never short of questions (insightful and probing ones too for the most part) covering every period of her political career and beyond; and Utton had an answer for each one.  Never once was it any less than utterly convincing.

One may argue that Utton plays for laughs on occasion despite his assertion that Thatcher not only lacked a sense of humour, but failed to understand humour as a concept.  This may be true, and a glib answer to a question on her final decline into Alzheimer’s disease was dismissed as being cheap by the gentleman who had posed it; but the low-level comedic current only ever heightened the enjoyment of the performance, which was wonderful throughout.