Friday, February 27, 2009
'Margaret' a Triumph for BBC and Lindsay Duncan
No matter how much we hated her-and I sure hated with the best- Thatcher has provided some superlative drama. However good 'The Deal' and other Blair related ones were, he could never muster the same emotions as Alderman Roberts' grown up daughter. Angela Riseborough was superb in 'The Road to Finchley' but Lindsay Duncan, though younger, more sexy and far more beautiful, last night achieved an imagined version of The Lady which captured much of her powerful essence.
The drama fucused on her last few weeks in power but flashbacks succeeded in capturing her earlier triumphs, Falklands excluded. Duncan herself, who also hated Thatcher in her pomp, was superb, despite the differences but I loved the supporting performances just as much. Oliver Cotton made a fine and believable Heseltine, looking like a surprised and slightly mad badger; Edward Fox was unnervingly close to the smooth reality of Charles Powell; Ian Maloney good as a maybe over devious John Major; and Ian Macdermid was spot on as a loving and supportive Dennis. My memory of meeting Peter Morrison, was that this portrait of a bumbling, arrogant near alcoholic incompetent, was not far from the truth. But for me, the best caricature of the lot was the quiet assassin Geoffrey Howe, played with brilliant and uncanny accuracy by John Sessions.
But Lindsay was centre stage as Thatcher with all her strengths and weaknesses. The strengths were reflected in the extraordinary dominance she exercised over her Cabinet. 'She' was quite right to say that she should have seen the Cabinet as a group and not individually as was the case: they were clearly so scared shitless of her that they would never have had the courage to break ranks and tell her time was up faced by her fierceness in the hallowed Cabinet room itself.
But of course her weaknesses- as so often- were the reverse side of her strengths. That dominance bred an arrogance and hubris which blinded her to the world as it was. So she saw chatting up backbenches in the Tea-Room of the House as beneath her dignity- she felt the Cabinet, nay the whole party, owed their existence purely to her iron will and towering achievements. Taken to its limits this self-belief morphed into a profound species of unbalanced hectoring personality. The picture of her as a whisky guzzling, angrily reproachful, mad old bint was ultimately highly believable.
I thought too her relationship with her children was poingnantly accurate too: the loving Carol ignored and patronised -just as she had ignored her own mother- while the cocky, odious Mark was the constant focus of proud maternal fussing. The drama successfully portrayed Thatcher's life as a tragedy: a brilliant politician brought down through complacently taking her political base for granted. Her steely self obsession- the key to her triumphs over lesser male opponents- ended up doing for her in the final analysis. What a woman! Thank God she's gone but reliving her downfall through this drama, I found a profoundly enjoyable and indeed moving epxperience.
I've posted something today on character similarities with Brown no matter how different their policy positions....
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