Political crisis and conflict is aptly revisited

Dead Sheep looks at the Margaret Thatcher era SUS-161210-124933001
Dead Sheep looks at the Margaret Thatcher era SUS-161210-124933001

Acclaimed new play Dead Sheep by Jonathan Maitland heads to the Devonshire Park Theatre for performances from November 8-12.

And with a subject matter which concerns the resignation of a Prime Minister and a government thrown into crisis by the looming spectre of Europe this work could not be more current or apposite.

It stars Steve Nallon (Spitting Image) as Margaret Thatcher, Paul Bradley (EastEnders and Holby City) as Geoffrey Howe, and Graham Seed (Nigel Pargetter in The Archers) as Eastbourne MP Ian Gow.

After a record-breaking run at London’s Park Theatre, and huge critical and public acclaim, Maitland’s debut play is directed by Ian Talbot OBE.

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 feisty 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...but also his own.

Dead Sheep 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. 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.

Playwright 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.”

Tickets from £15.50 with nightly performances at 7.45pm and Wednesday and Saturday matinee at 2.30pm; to book or for more information call 01323 412000 or see www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk.