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Features Q&A and Interviews Published 21 March 2015

Soho Story

David Ralf speaks to Jon Brittain - aka Maggie's manager - about Kings and Queens of Soho, Bovril and Section 28.
David Ralf

I‘ve hoped to sit down with Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho for a few choice words in her natural habitat ever since I saw her show at Theatre 503 in December 2013. It didn’t seem to matter how many times I hung around the corner of Fifty and Dean however – I never caught sight of that signature coiffure. After a concerted voicemail campaign, and just ahead of Maggie’s appearance at the Leicester Square Theatre later this month, I reached the Greek Street office of Maggie’s manager. I was greeted by a Mr Jon Brittain (surely a pseudonym) who shook my greasily by the hand, took down the sign in his window saying ‘models wanted’, and relit his cigar. The smoke set off the cornflower blue of his tie perfectly – there’s nothing like brand loyalty.

Where is Maggie right now?

I like to keep her working. She’s either recording a podcast, rehearsing a dance routine, making a personal appearance, or closing a pit. Old habits die hard.

How did you and Maggie meet?

When Maggie decided to venture into showbiz she set out to find the best manager money could buy. Then she saw how expensive they were and decided to settle for the best manager not a lot of money could buy. At that point I was trying to manage Nigel Lawson’s rap career but we all knew it wasn’t going anywhere and by that point frankly he was just embarrassing his daughter. So when Maggie came knocking I signed her up immediately to a very fair deal – I only take a 5% commission on top of my 65% cut. After eight hours spent copying the script to the movie ‘Scrooged’ but changing all the names and locations we had a show!

The 2013 show’s house music alone rekindled my love of Shania Twain. Is she still on the soundtrack or is it all modern pop I wouldn’t recognise now?

Maggie does like a bit of Shania as the audience are come in. As for the show itself, she’s very particular about what songs she uses. She wanted to use every track from the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, but I had to sit her down and say ‘Maggie, that would make your show Phantom of the Opera, and that’s already on.’ She didn’t understand and she didn’t appreciate my tone but in the end we used some of the best hits of the 80s instead.

How has the journey from Theatre503 to the Leicester Square happened? Has Paul Raymond had a hand in it?

Although Paul Raymond is King of Soho and Maggie is Queen, there is no relation. She doesn’t do those types of shows. Not unless the money’s really good. We got to Leicester Square with a lot of hard work. As Maggie always says “lucky people are only those who are prepared to get up early enough in the morning and work hard enough to successfully sabotage the careers of their competitors.” After Maggie stormed Edinburgh (not in the same way she stormed the Falklands, although it took a lot of persuading on my part to stop it being that way), coming back to London seemed like the logical choice. Contrary to rumours, it’s not because Maggie has become so much of a diva that she refuses to perform more than 2 miles away from an organic vegan coffee shop. Although that is also true.

Maggie's manager.

Maggie’s manager.

Since the Theatre503 show the phenomenon of the Queen of Soho has really grown, with videospodcasts, and stand-up – even appearing on the same bill as Harry Hill at the Backyard Comedy Club in February. How does Maggie deal with the strain or balancing a cabaret act with all these other media? 

Organic herbal tea, warm Bovril toast and masses and masses of cocaine. For breakfast.

Do they all serve the show, or are they more than marketing? 

I said to Maggie recently “the show’s great, but you’re bigger than it”, and she is. The show tells the story of how she became a cabaret superstar, but the next stage in her career is for her to conquer light entertainment. The podcasts and live performances are just the beginning, I want her as a judge on The Voice, I want her dancing on ice, I want her in the Big Brother house, and I want her in the jungle – not on I’m a Celebrity, I just think she deserves a holiday after all that reality TV.

Maggie even weighed in on Scottish Independence. Is it hard for you to keep her under control?

Before Maggie released her video Scotland was as good as gone, after she released it they were definitely going to leave. It was only when she threatened to return to politics that Scotland agreed to stay for the sake of the North of England. However we tend not to weigh in on political matters unless we absolutely have to. Maggie is easier to control than her husband Denis. He’s no longer allowed anywhere near a stage, not after the incident where he decided to ‘warm up’ for Maggie with some off-colour jokes and landed us all with a lifetime ban from Birmingham.

Section 28 is at the core of Maggie’s story – how is it important to you, as her manager? Is it central to her act or could you see her evolving away from her ‘origin story’?

Gay rights will always be close to Maggie’s heart, I can’t see a time where she won’t be a friend of the friends of Dorothy. In fact, she’s so tight with the gay community now that they’re going to replace that term with ‘friend of Maggie’. But as she moves forward there are other issues and events to poke fun of through the medium of disco music, dancing and being utterly fabulous.

Along with her backing dancers Hessell and Tine, Maggie’s your only client, but you have dealings all over London? What does your cut of Maggie’s earnings get spent on?

Organic herbal tea, warm Bovril toast and masses and masses of cocaine. Who do you think buys it for her?!

Where next for Maggie?

Where next? Where not! Listen out to her new podcasts, watch out for new shows and check her twitter feed (@sohothatcher) for news of live performances. And just in case you need an entertainer, she’ll do corporate events, bar mitzvahs and party conferences for very competitive rates.

Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho is written by Jon Brittain and Matt Tedford, and runs from 17th to 21st March at the Leicester Square Theatre. 

Exeunt’s review of Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho.

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David Ralf

David Ralf is a writer and critic in London. He won the Sunday Times Harold Hobson Award for reviewing at the ISDF in 2012, and the Kenneth Tynan Prize for his reviews for the Oxford Theatre Review in 2011. He draws pens and doodles at Pens by Pens.