88
Share

Anyone for Denis?

The public's perception of former Prime Minister Lady Thatcher's late husband Sir Denis was that of a shambling old buffer who was intolerant of pinkoes and lefties and obsessed with gin. This was mostly due to the "Dear Bill" series of letters printed in Private Eye magazine, supposedly written by Denis to his friend Bill, but in fact dreamed up by writers John Wells and Richard Ingrams. Bill was always assumed to be Bill Deedes, editor of The Daily Telegraph. In addition to dreaming up the words of Denis, Wells had perfected an expert comic impersonation. He adapted the letters into a West End farce, which subsequently became a Thames comedy drama for Christmas 1982. Angela Thorne co-starred as "Maggie", giving a spookily well-observed performance which has been sadly overlooked. Mapledurham House in Reading stands in for Chequers; the title music is from Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije suite.