Haydn Gwynne as Margaret Thatcher in The Audience
Haydn Gwynne as Margaret Thatcher in The Audience

Following the death of Margaret Thatcher, the audience at Billy Elliot voted to keep in the show Elton John and Lee Hall's song "Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher", which sends up the former British Prime Minister and celebrates her oncoming death (See last week's News).

We extended the topic and the vote to the wider theatregoing public to find out, beyond depictions of her in popular shows such as Billy Elliot and The Audience, did Thatcher have a lasting effect on theatre? And is that effect good or bad?

Thatcher was in power from 1979 to 1990. Under her watch, as Michael Billington writes in the Guardian today, "we saw a shift away from public subsidy to corporate sponsorship, a transformation of the Arts Council from an independent agency to an instrument of government, and the growth of a siege mentality in arts organisations".

At the same time, Britain – and, more specifically, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh – churned out blockbuster musicals and turned them into global brands, and dramatists, including Caryl Churchill, David Hare, Howard Brenton, Tom Stoppard and Alan Ayckbourn were inspired to write some of their best-known plays in response to Thatcherism and its effects on society.


The survey has now finished, view results below. Feel free to post further thoughts on the subject of Margaret Thatcher and the arts via the User Comments below or on the Whatsonstage.com Discussion Forum.