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Review: HANDBAGGED, Kiln Theatre

Indhu Rubasingham's revival is deliciously witty and perfectly poignant

Review: HANDBAGGED, Kiln Theatre

Review: HANDBAGGED, Kiln Theatre When Liz Truss was invited to form a government, only last week, the production team of Moira Buffini's Handbagged must have been jubilant at the parallels between the play and today's political situation. A right-wing female Prime Minister, replete with pussy-bow blouses, curtseying awkwardly to the Monarch, as she welcomed her fifteenth Prime Minister.

However, we now know that was to be their only meeting and, whether you are monarchist or staunch republican, there can be little doubt about the play's added poignancy at this time of national mourning for The Queen. Director Indhu Rubasingham conducted a dignified moment's silence before the play, in acknowledgment of The Queen's passing.

Her revival of Buffini's play is playful and fiercely funny, whilst deftly tackling serious issues. It explores the battle of wills between two powerful women: The Queen and Margaret Thatcher, through the eleven years Thatcher served as Prime Minister.

We will never know what passed between them, but the script gives some delicious, imagined conversations, interspersed with historical events, touching humanely on the very real tragedies of the time such as the miners' strike, the Falklands war and the Brighton bombing.

As younger Thatcher, Mags, Naomi Frederick is breathy and aloof and older Thatcher, T, KATE FAHY is particularly adept at capturing the bass, husky tones of Thatcher's voice. Both mimic each other incredibly well, capturing the upright pose and extended neck of Thatcher brilliantly.

The young Queen, Liz, is captured well by an earnest Abigail Cruttenden; clipped and mischievous. We know now a lot more about the dry wit of The Queen and Marion Bailey as Older Queen, Q, delivers some of the best lines in an amusingly deadpan manner.

Thankfully, none of the performances fall into pure caricature. The parody is provided by highly entertaining performances from Romayne Andrews and Richard Cant. They provoke much laughter from their portrayals of a vast range of supporting characters, such as Denis Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, even arguing over who gets to play Neil Kinnock. As the actor's own opinions come through, it gets very meta.

Richard Kent's costumes are pitch-perfect, with two-piece suits, brooches and, of course, very appropriate handbags. His scant set uses a clever slotted set of panels to subtly portray the Union Jack, but otherwise the attention if firmly on the performers. Richard Mawbey's wigs are huge and immovable.

Monarchists will be comforted, as is clear that Buffini has a soft spot for The Queen, who she uses to point out the flaws in Thatcher's attitude and policies (although Thatcher is allowed to point out The Queen's tax position-or lack of it). Although first performed in 2013, the script cleverly skewers the current political and social situation, drawing knowing parallels with the recent past.

Those too young to have experienced the Thatcher era first-hand may struggle to grasp every nuance or inside joke, but the end result is an incredibly witty and poignant production.

Handbagged runs at the Kiln Theatre until 29 October

Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

Regional Awards


From This Author - Aliya Al-Hassan

Aliya Al-Hassan is UK Managing Editor of BroadwayWorld. A London-based theatre critic and journalist, she has a life-long passion for the arts, with a focus on theatre and opera. She is a... (read more about this author)


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