Theatre Review: Handbagged

Brilliant! Handbagged is showing at the Vaudeville (London) until August 2nd. Image copyright to
Brilliant! Handbagged is showing at the Vaudeville (London) until August 2nd. Image copyright to

“I never said that” utters one, “I might have thought it, but I never said it” utters the other. It’s like the meeting of two friends who are able to view their friendship right back from the very first meeting taking an amusing look back as they henpeck each other and everyone else around them. Alas, I very much doubt the term friends could be applied to these two, and I doubt the attendance of one at the other’s funeral last April was out of friendship, but more out of respect to someone who was the longest serving Prime Minister of the twentieth century. I am, of course, talking about The Queen and Margaret Thatcher and their relationship during the 1980s which is the subject of Moria Buffini’s superb comedy ‘Handbagged’.

Now in the WestEnd following an extremely successful run at the Tricycle Theatre last year, and with an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre this show is a must see. Featuring just six actors on stage for the entire performance there are two Thatchers and two Queens for us to examine as we watch them bicker and fight as they give us a take on what happened behind closed doors during the Falklands, the Westland Affair and Thatcher’s final days to mention just a few. Special mentions have to go to Fenella Woolgar (Young Thatcher) and Marion Bailey (‘Present’ Queen) who have the mannerisms of their characters down to an absolute tee.

Of course I would be lying through my teeth if I suggested that this was a play for everyone. It isn’t. For the politically minded, for those interested in the 1980s, for those with enough geeky knowledge to get the political jokes (of which there are many) and for those who totally understand Actor 1 (Neet Mohan) when the play moves beyond 1981 complains to Thatcher and the Queen that they’ve left so many events out that mattered including the race riots and Thatcher’s unpopularity. However if the play is for you, you are in for a true delight. Whilst the Queens and Thatchers stay in character throughout this is not a play that takes it seriously as the fourth wall is broken constantly with Actor 1 (Neet Mohan) and Actor 2 (Jeff Rawle) being asked by the women to regularly change character, even when it is impractical. The two male actors even have a ‘Kinnock off’ at the start of Act 2!

Aside from the obvious enjoyment of the production, Buffini must be applauded for her ability to pick through the events of the 1980s to provide a production that is not just a humorous look back at thirty year old history, but something that has a valid comment to make on today’s society. The political geeks amongst the audience will draw their own conclusions to the inclusion of the ‘I warn you’ speech and the foreshadowing comments throughout that offer a political comment on the current situation in Britain. It is a production that works on many levels, highlighted by the basic staging which is predictably organised and at times suitably lit up to resemble a union flag, which enables the focus to be purely on the superb cast who are flawless and amusing in their performance throughout.

Nutleyone rating: 9/10 (I am a political geek after all!)

Handbagged is currently showing at the Vaudeville Theatre (London) and bookings are being taken for performances up to and including August 2nd. Tickets and further information can be obtained from the play’s website here