In a way, actor Steve Nallon has been preparing to play the part of Margaret Thatcher for 40 years.
The actor and impersonator, whose eerily accurate voicing of the Thatcher puppet for satirical 1980s TV show Spitting Image shot him to fame, first inpersonated her on stage for a school cabaret in 1975.
She then became a part of his act as a young impersonator in working men’s clubs and talent shows.
Now he’s playing the much-hated former Tory prime minister on stage in the play Dead Sheep at Cast in Doncaster.
The play looks back to 1989 when the seemingly invincible Mrs Thatcher sacked Geoffrey Howe, her Foreign Secretary.
The man whose speaking skills had, famously, been compared to those of a dead sheep, went on to destroy Mrs Thatcher with one of the great political speeches in the House of Commons.
Steve admitted: “The strange thing about doing this play is I’m a working class lad from Leeds, playing a rather strange woman in her 40s.”
He points out that this is proper acting, though, rather than an impersonation.
“I’m very proud of the fact that my best reviews when I did this show last year came from people saying, ‘my God, the stare on his face’ or ‘the way his nostrils flared’.
“That’s great for me. I’m known for the voice and able to do it well. To get good reviews for my acting was great.”
He added: “You’ve got to sort of think the way she would think at that moment, if she is cross with somebody or happy, you do that.”
He then went into the Thatcher voice to make a point about making her sound convincing: “The biggest mistake most people doing Mrs Thatcher make is that she is just mad.
“They say the words in that very patronising voice, as if she didn’t believe what she was saying.
“The best way is to believe every single word you’re saying. If you talk like that, it doesn’t sound as if you’re insincere.”
Both his Thatcher voices were remarkable but when he then went into his own style of impersonation it was spine chilling, as if Mrs Thatcher was alive.
He said having a grandmother who was a Tory admirer of Mrs Thatcher helps, too.
“I keep my politics out of it but I sort of understand where she comes from – a tradition of hard work, earning your own way, saving for a rainy day…
“How it ever got from that to the poll tax, I don’t know.”
Dead Sheep is at Cast from September 6 to 10. Box office: at the venue on Waterdale, call 01302 303959 or go online at Cast in Doncaster