Timing is everything in politics and theatre and this couldn’t be more apposite. Casting is announced for Jonathan Maitland’s Dead Sheep national tour as the UK and its government tear themselves apart over Europe.
After a record-breaking run at London’s Park Theatre – and huge critical and public acclaim – Maitland’s debut play, Dead Sheep, a biting satire about Margaret Thatcher’s run-ins with Geoffrey Howe over Europe, will tour the UK from September.
Jonathan Maitland said: “When I wrote Dead Sheep in 2014 I knew it would be resonant. But it now feels uncanny.
“Then, as now, it was a story of a government split over Europe, agonising conflicts of loyalty, and a fatal miscalculation by a seemingly impregnable Prime Minister.
“The timing couldn’t be sweeter – especially since we’re playing Birmingham in September, during the week of the Tory party conference. We’re considering a special seating policy for that leg of the tour: Remainers in the circle, Leavers in the stalls.. .”
Steve Nallon returns to the production to star as Margaret Thatcher, having portrayed her for many years on the political puppetry satire Spitting Image.
Paul Bradley, best known for playing Professor Elliot Hope in Holby City, will play Geoffrey Howe with Carol Royle as his wife, Elspeth. Graham Seed returns to play Ian Gow and Nigel Lawson while Tony Bell will take on the roles of Bernard Ingham, Alan Clark and Denis Thatcher and John Wark will play Stephen Wall & Brian Walden.
It is 1989 and a seemingly invincible Prime Minister has sacked her Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe, thinking she had nothing to fear from him; his speaking skills had, famously, been compared to those of a dead sheep.
But inspired by his wife Elspeth – a formidable and witty feminist, whose relationship with Thatcher was notoriously frosty – Howe overcame his limitations to destroy Mrs Thatcher’s political career…and also his own.
Dead Sheep (Read Stage Review’s five-star verdict bit.ly/1av8uZV) portrays the true story of how Mrs Thatcher, the most divisive Prime Minister of modern times, was brought down by her one time friend and political soul mate Geoffrey Howe.
Using imagined dialogue to portray private scenes between the main protagonists, it recreates the events leading up to Howe’s famous 1990 speech, in which he criticised Thatcher for undermining policies on economic and monetary union in Europe, ultimately leading to her downfall and resignation.
Dead Sheep is the result of two years’ research, during which the playwright gained access to Geoffrey Howe himself and other prominent politicians and advisers of the era.
Jonathan Maitland is a broadcaster and writer. He reported for Radio 4’s Today programme in the 1990s, before co-presenting BBC1’s Watchdog and ITV’s House of Horrors. He has presented ITV’s flagship current affairs show, Tonight, for the last 16 years.
Maitland’s co-written screenplay about the footballer Stanley Matthews has been optioned and is in development. Dead Sheep was his debut play at Park Theatre, which was then followed by the highly controversial An Audience with Jimmy Savile, starring Alistair McGowan.
His third play at the venue, Deny Deny Deny, which will tackle doping in sport, will open in November.
UK TOUR DATES
September 6-10, CAST, DONCASTER September 13-17, WESTCLIFF PALACE THEATRE, SOUTHEND September 19–24, ROYAL & DERNGATE, NORTHAMPTON September 26-October 1, BIRMINGHAM REP October 3-8, SHREWSBURY SEVERN THEATRE October 11-15, CARDIFF NEW THEATRE October 19-22, COVENTRY BELGRADE THEATRE October 31-November 5, EXETER NORTHCOTT THEATRE November 8-12, EASTBOURNE DEVONSHIRE PARK November 14–19,MALVERN FESTIVAL THEATRE November 21-26, GUILDFORD YVONNE ARNAUD November 30-December 3, BROMLEY CHURCHILL THEATRE