Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Ovalhouse – 20th November 2013
Tape recorders, leg warmers and Bananarama – all acceptable in the 80s. I may have been born in the (late) 80s myself, but all the politics and drama were (quite literally) over my young infant head. However, I was born into a very pro-Margaret Thatcher family and I’ve always admired her as a person.
So, it was with some trepidation that I entered The Ovalhouse for Mars.tarrab’s production of The Lady’s Not for Walking (Like an Egyptian), a piece of experimental theatre described as ‘an anarchic romp’, with a set covered in pictures of Margaret Thatcher and scattered with pages of her words.
Dashing on stage to the familiar Bangles song Walk Like an Egyptian, Rachel Mars and nat tarrab are dressed head to toe in brightly coloured Lycra with net skirts and psychedelic eye make-up. Their classic 80s dancing is not quite synchronised but gets the audience whooping and bopping their heads. It’s definitely not a serious performance. Or is it?
As they explore what Thatcherism was and is, Mars and tarrab draw from Margaret Thatcher’s speeches and popular 80s songs, both read out as a news piece.
More dancing like nobody’s watching and then a quick costume change into suits, wigs and handbags for a more serious look at Thatcher’s legacy. The Falklands war sees the two performers throw a cardboard ship onto the stage before running off, returning minutes later on orange Space Hoppers which bounce onto the ship and destroy it.
This amusing scene is topped only when Rachel throws cup after cup of milk into nat’s face as she rants about the Commons’ attitude to homosexuality in the 80s. The piece then ends with the two women lip syncing to The Power of Love, Rachel in just knickers and a blouse; nat back in her multicoloured Lycra.
The performance is actually very cleverly done, as it manages to amuse, but not offend and the audience laughs out loud on several occasions. The two performers are energetic and enthusiastic, using their bodies to great effect and playing on the stark contrast between them.
Although timing could have been a bit more slick, the piece is witty and insightful, inviting you to cast your mind back to the epic eighties and ask yourself if you are the way you are because you were born into Thatcherism and have never known anything else, or because you were thrust into it against your will. But it is a fact that “she had a c**t and she knew how to use it”.