London Theater Audience Votes to Kick Thatcher When She's Dead, in Song

Esther Zuckerman

An audience at the West End production of Billy Elliot last night didn't really care that a song in the show slandered the name of recently deceased—and still reviled—former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Last night, a show of hands said so.

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The second act of the show, based on the eponymous 2000 film, features a number, sung by miners in County Durham during the 1984-85 strike, titled "Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher." But, alas, these miners aren't really wishing Thatcher any good tidings. In fact, the chorus goes: "We all celebrate the day / 'Cause it's one day closer to your death." 

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The Daily Mail reported that producers and assistant directors talked with Stephen Daldry, the production's director, about whether or not to go with the song for the first production since news of Thatcher's death arrived. Ultimately, the show decided to put its own audience to a vote. Per the BBC, Daldry said: "After an explanation of the song's content and historical context from the stage, the audience voted overwhelmingly for its inclusion in the second act." What overwhelmingly means is up for debate. The Telegraph says that only three people voted against the cast performing the song. The Daily Mail explained that: "A majority of the audience raised hands and shouted out for the number to be sung. About twenty people voted for the song not to go ahead." 

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So even though the cast had rehearsed an alternate, Billy Elliot played on with its anti-Thatcher tune. 

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Meanwhile, another West End performance also had to deal with Thatcher's death. The Audience, starring Helen Mirren, a play about the Queen meeting with prime ministers, features a conversation between the Queen and Thatcher. (The play is also directed by Daldry.) Playwright Peter Morgan appeared onstage Monday to introduce the play in light of Thatcher's death, the Telegraph reported. Even though there remains a place in the play to add a reference to Thatcher's passing, Morgan told The Daily Mail that it was "too soon" for that, adding: "it would only get laughs — even if it were poignant." 

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Here's the Billy Elliot song. The musical was composed by Elton John with lyrics by Lee Hall: