Handbagged**** (Tricycle Theatre, 4 November 2013)

Posted: November 4, 2013 in Theatre

Hot on the heels of Peter Morgan’s “The Audience”, Moira Buffini’s highly amusing new comedy takes another look at the relationship between The Queen and her Prime Minister; in this case, it is one specific Prime Minister – Margaret Thatcher, chronicling her period in office from May 1979 to November 1990; in those years, HM is played by Clare Holman and PM by Fenella Woolgar, but Buffini uses the very effective device of having an older HM (Marion Bailey) and PM (Stella Gonet) providing a commentary and distinguishing their versions of the truth from popular myths. All four are on stage for almost the entire play. Mention should also be made of Neet Mohan and Jeff Rawle who share all the male roles (plus that of Nancy Reagan) between them. If the humour in “The Audience” was gentle and respectful, this is much more political and veers towards hard-edged satire, with the two protagonists caricatured rather than being represented realistically. The underlying sentiments in the text have more than faint hints of leftish sympathising, but Thatcher is at least allowed to state her case and she is never reviled in the way that was so distasteful immediately after her death. As often with broad satire, the jokes sometimes dry up, but director Indhu Rubasingham keeps things moving at a brisk pace and adds several inventive touches. This limited run is already a sell out, so a West End transfer seems highly likely and well deserved it will be.

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