Thatcherwrite script – True Blue (2013)

14th January 2023

TRUE BLUE, performed at Theatre503, Battersea, as part of the Thatcherwite season of short plays presented in the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s death, 11-15 June 2013

Cast: Georgina Strawson
Freddie Capper
Director: Samuel Miller
Writer: Dominic Cavendish

True Blue Georgina Strawson as Maggie, Freddie Capper as David

TRUE BLUE, after Philoctetes by Sophocles

The sound of surf. A sense of infinitude. We are on an island. As in a dream.  Margaret stands alone looking out at the great blue yonder. Her smart clothes are ragged. Her face slightly begrimed? She has a pearl necklace. There is a gilded handbag, lurking nearby – some gathered logs in the form of seating? When M speaks she displays attitudes we associate with the former PM, but her accent might have been altered by a lengthy spell in the sun with old traces barging in. Her age is indeterminate.


Emissary (deferential, English, bland approaches, looking like a smart cross between a politician and room-service at a posh London hotel. As he moves down towards the stage, through the auditorium, he pauses to say to us):  “There is wonder, in my heart, how in her loneliness, listening to the waves beating on the shore, how she kept hold at all, on a life so full of tears..”




M (bright, girlish): Tell me, what sort of blue do you think this is? The sea today. How would you describe it? What an incredible colour! Look!


E: You heard me approach?


M:  I am fully aware of everything that goes on in this place at all times. I have to be. There isn’t a plant that moves in the breeze without my knowing of it. Mr…?


E: Knott.


M: Are you.. John? No you can’t be – much too young. You look a bit like him, though. Any relation? To Sir John Nott? (serious, insistent)


E: No, sorry.


M: Pity. He was a very able Secretary of State for Defence – his foolish naval cuts notwithstanding – He helped us in our hour of need back in [beat, groping]… 1982.


E: The Falklands?


M: Yes of course the Falklands. Why would I forget that? I suppose there are many things that time will erase, that so much time spent on one’s own would erase, but never that. Those islands alone in a hostile sea, all that sacrifice.


E:  Ah, yes, of course… My name is actually spelt K-n-o-t; as in “untie”. Like a riddle. Always been a bit of a joke, among my friends.


M: Oh. Jokes, yes. I remember those, before I became the butt of them. The jeers the day I stepped down in the House of Commons went on for minutes. Your first name?


E: David.


M: David… Margaret. You can call me Maggie. I don’t stand much on ceremony here. To be perfectly frank with you, I don’t stand for long periods. I have this wound to my foot, do you see? [It cannot be seen] The stench of it can be overpowering. You recoil at it. If only there were medicines, but I have none. The salt water hardly helps. At times I cry out – as if what, some doctor will come yomping over the wilds and apply balm? Sheer fantasy! I have no Man Friday here. This is no Madeira. I am not on honey-moon. There is no Dennis… No Crawfie.


E: If only this island had its own NHS A&E, perhaps, is that it?


M: You make light of my suffering do you? You have come here to mock?


E: Not at all, I apologise.


M: If you knew the agonies I have been in, agonies made worse by my abandonment. Abandonment made worse by the betrayal behind it. Turfed out with no notice – cast out like a leper. My wound an offence to all. Forced out before the task at hand was completed and after which time no work was possible. Unemployed, forsaken. I will never forget, never… But I’m losing my manners. I wish I could offer you a cup of tea or rustle up a bite to eat. As you can see, things are very basic. One must make do and mend. I have always been a practical person, and I have rolled my sleeves up here.  “Keep doing some kind of work, that the devil may always find you employed.” St Jerome. I catch creatures of the sea with the remains of my headscarves and bake them on the rocks. I use my handbag to snare sea birds. Food processing and control, my first trade after university. You’re lucky we’re not in winter – that can be very harsh indeed. There’s a dwelling I’ve made out of driftwood – with a bath-tub fashioned from turtle-shells.  You’d be welcome to take a nap if you’re tired after your long journey.


E: Ah. Well, I appreciate the gesture, but it won’t be necessary, thank you. I have only been granted a short while to spend with you – then I set sail again.


M: You have sailed here with others, have you? And in which direction do you sail, I wonder? “One ship drives east another drives west by the selfsame gale that blows,/ tis the set of the sail and not the gale that determines the way she goes.” Do you know that poem? I have known it since I was a girl in Grantham. One of the things few knew about me, that I like verse very much.


E: I’m afraid I don’t know it.


M: It’s by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. She who also wrote: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone”. How true. “Solitude”. You didn’t answer my question: what kind of blue do you think the sea has today?


E: I’m sure I can’t say.


M: Is it “cobalt blue” – a colour one might derive from the cobalt salts of alumina?  Al2 O3 as any good chemist will tell you. Or maybe it’s Azure Blue, as in “The Azure triumphs”. You know that poem by Mallarme: “It rolls in with the fog, and like a sword/ It penetrates your inmost agony”? Yes, that catches it best. Deep azure – what is often termed “True Blue”. Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2. I feel almost like going for a swim. It looks so inviting. I could dive down out there and seek out the wreck of the Sir Galahad.


E: I fear the years you have spent here have taken their toll.


M: Just a little joke. I’m fully compos mentis, thank you very much. Well, what do you want? Come here to play the Good Samaritan have you? What is it you wish to say? I’m very busy. I have a lot to attend to. My diary is packed.


E: I cannot lie to you. There was talk of abducting you – dragging you home – but I see at once that that is impossible. You still have some wits about you and I fear you, what you remain capable of. It’s almost incredible that you have survived. The Gods have smiled on you, alone here, despite everything.


M (Fingering her necklace): It’s true. I gave this once to a fortune-teller in Orpington. This was barely before I had begun my journey into British politics. She fingered the pearls and prophesied: “You will be great, as great as Churchill”. It was as though the Gods had spoken. I have clung to that.


E: Our island state needs you. Without you we continue to drift. We are at sea. It has become clear that the battles we face cannot be won unless we have you at our side. In denying you, we have denied something.. in ourselves. We need you to return, of your own volition, all ancient animosities laid to rest.


M: At your side? Not at the head?


E: There needs to be reconciliation. Reconcilement. But things cannot go back to the way they were, you must realise that. There has to be..


M: What.. Compromise? Fudge? Coalition!? Never, never, never.


E: Acceptance. Acceptance of wrongs done, mistakes made. Then your achievements can be honoured, then we can build on your legacy. Fight.


M: Perhaps mistakes were made. Oh, yes, I’m to blame. I’m the one responsible for internet porn, for child-labour in Bangladesh, for the abduction and disappearance of Madeleine McCann! Must I hobble in sack cloth and ashes through streets I paved with gold? A martyr to others’ hurt feelings?


E: Not humiliation, no. But not triumph either. We need a truce. You must.. be seen to turn the other cheek.


M: Ha! You turn the other cheek if you want to. The lady is not for… Oh, how very portentous you make it all sound, like some Oxford Student drama – the sort I once watched with my Somerville friends at the end of Trinity term just to get out and about from the lab. And if I refuse to board ship and return?


E: You must remain in exile. The agonies will increase. Yours and ours. Posterity will remember only your solitary final years. You will become a figure more to be scorned than pitied, more pitied than admired. You must relent.


M: To ask me to help save the state is to fail to understand in what order I have already saved it. The state as such does not exist – only the human spirit. If you cannot find that spirit in yourself then don’t come to me seeking it.


E: “The state as such does not exist” Do you even now insist that it is individuals alone who uphold the nation? What of the ills that citizens are naturally capable of – must they go unchecked? Are you blind to evil? You talk of the human spirit – standing there alone – do you know how ridiculous you look? Never has a body cried out more for help. For home! We require your fortitude – we can live well enough without your folly. This isn’t stoical endurance, it’s pride and vanity – if you had a mirror you would see it.




M: No I don’t think that would be the luxury I would choose. I thought about this a lot. And I decided the thing I would like most of all would be a photograph album of the children. We had some wonderful photographs and I would only have memories and hopes to live on.


E: One book apart from Bible and Shakespeare, not including encyclopedias?


M: Well I think if we had the Bible and Shakespeare I’d be having enough intellectual and philosophical exercise, so I should turn to something practical, and I’ve found a book, it’s called The Survival Handbook- Self Sufficiency for Everyone and it even tells you how to make a boat, it tells you how to weave, it tells you how to cook all sorts of things, about making long bows and arrows. Don’t you think that would just be right?


E: A book every castaway should have. Would you attempt to escape?


MT: I don’t think so because a desert island just all sounds very much of an island and I’m cautious by nature, and I would just hope that someone would come and rescue me, my dreams would go that way.


E: Surely they will. Record two.


M: I can’t remember (Distress). Why can’t I remember? No I have it, it would have to be Largo, Goin’ Home. I’ve chosen a brass band. You know they played quite a large part in my youth, we loved them, and I thought that I would like to hear something like Largo Going Home from Dvorak’s Symphony no 9.


(We hear a sample of a brass band playing it, this should be quite moving)


M: (Her delivery the opposite of Wizard of Oz sentimentality) There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home…


E: Ma’am? Would you like me to take your order?


M: My order? (muffled, slurred) I want to stay. I fight on. I fight on to win.


E: I beg your pardon? I didn’t quite catch that. You want me to stay? I’m only here to help. All part of the service here. I wondered if you’d care for some morning tea? Or perhaps can I plump up the cushions for you? A newspaper?


M: You’re so very young. Would the right honourable gentleman care to stay with me and talk a little while longer? Do you even know who I am?


E: Of course I do, ma’am. I’m honoured to serve you. I will be here whenever you need me. The hotel is staffed round the clock.


M: Perhaps you could press my temples. I have a terrible wound here, in my head. It seeps. It is very painful. On second thoughts, no. Don’t approach. Would you just very kindly do me a favour and part the curtains back there? So that I can look out at the people in the streets, onto the traffic in Piccadilly.


E: Certainly. I will do it now (Does so) Just ring the bell if you need anything.

(steps away, back up the auditorium?)


M (looks out at us) : My first distinct memory is of traffic. I was being pushed in a pram through the park on a sunny afternoon and I must have experienced the bustle of Grantham on the way. The occasion stays in my mind as an exciting mixture of colour, vehicles, people and noise. Yet paradoxically the memory is a pleasant one. I must have liked this first conscious plunge into the outside world. Being part of the busi-ness of humanity. But you know: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13.


Her Majesty The Queen………… has asked me to form a new administration and I have accepted. It is, of course, the greatest honour that can come to any citizen in a democracy. I know full well the responsibilities that await me as I enter the door of No. 10 and I’ll strive unceasingly to try to fulfil the trust and confidence that the British people have placed in me and the things in which I believe. And I would just like to remember some words of St. Francis of Assisi which I think are really just particularly apt at the moment. They were the words he often requested and which he was listening to that evening of October 3rd, 1226 when he died. Psalm 140. It ebbs and flows, ebbs and flows in me. (She becomes more slurred as she recites this)


Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man; Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war. They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips. Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings. The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set traps for me. …If you will just let me finish! Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked: further not his wicked device; lest they exalt themselves. As for the head of those that compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them. Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again. Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth: evil shall hunt the violent man to overthrow him. Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence. The upright shall dwell in thy presence. The upright shall dwell in thy presence…  The upright shall dwell….


(The sound of applause crescendos into the crashing roar of surf. Blackout)



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Dominic Cavendish - Theatre Critic & Journalist

Dominic Cavendish is the lead theatre critic for The Daily Telegraph. He is the founding editor of the audio archive Theatrevoice

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