A controversial new play imagining Margaret Thatcher’s death will receive its premiere next month at the recently opened Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton, east London. The Death of Margaret Thatcher, written by Tom Green, runs from 7 February to 2 March 2008 (previews from 5 February).

The piece focuses not on Thatcher herself but rather on four fictional characters and their reactions to news of the death of the former British prime minister. According to promotional material, it’s a “short, sharp shock of a play … a disturbing, ironic and often funny account of a specific time and four very different people”.

News of the play caused headlines in newspapers around the world at the weekend – and consternation from Thatcher’s one-time colleagues. In an interview in the Observer yesterday, former Conservative party chairman Norman Tebbit, who served in Thatcher's government as Trade and Industry Secretary, took umbrage with the play’s premise. “The playwright seems to have a problem of comprehension: Margaret Thatcher is not dead,” Tebbit said. “He would have been better to write a play called The Life of Margaret Thatcher which called for her to be reinstated at Number 10.”

June Abbott, the joint founder and artistic director of the Courtyard, who is directing The Death of Margaret Thatcher, admitted: “We were worried about the title at first, but this work puts Baroness Thatcher's death on a par with events such as the death of Kennedy or of Princess Diana. She provokes such emotion.”

Born on 13 October 1925, and still very much alive, Margaret Thatcher, aka “the Iron Lady”, was prime minister from 1979 to 1990 – one of the country’s longest ever terms in the post - and leader of the Conservative party from 1975 to 1990. She was the first – and, to date, only – woman to serve in either position. After retiring from the House of Commons in 1992, she entered the House of Lords as Baroness Thatcher.

The cast of The Death of Margaret Thatcher are Russell Anthony, Leanne Elms, John Elnaugh, Alan Freestone, Ian Mairs, Craig Murray and Alex Topham Tyerman.

- by Terri Paddock