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Handbagged review at Tricycle London

Four identical handbags feature in every scene of Moira Buffini’s very funny satirical comedy. This full-length version of her contribution to the nine short plays which made up the Tricycle’s 2010 Women, Power and Politics again has young and older versions of the Queen (Liz and Q) and Mrs Thatcher (Mags and T) in a series of more or less icy conversations. Peter Morgan’s recent success about the weekly prime ministerial visits to the palace, The Audience, arguably short-changed Thatcher. She has her moment now – Buffini showcases her entire premiership. The setting is theatrical, the audience acknowledged, in Indhu Rubasingham’s sprightly production. Marion Bailey equals Helen Mirren in her observation of the older, four-square HMQ, while Fenella Woolgar has the voice of Mags in her prime off to the last elocuted vowel. Clare Holman as Liz and Stella Gonet as the sadder T are joined by Neet Mohan and Jeff Rawle playing two actors gamely attempting everyone else, from Dennis Thatcher to Kenneth Kaunda, from Kenneth Clarke to Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

There is never any doubt where Buffini’s sympathies lie – even the Queen is a proto-leftie – and the laughter could seem a little too cosy. Yet a serious subject underlies the fun. Absolute facts are few. Memory plays tricks while prejudice and gossip colour what we take to be truth. It is a clever stroke to make older characters contradict their younger selves and vice versa. According to the point of view, history can make heroes or buffoons of anyone.

Production Information

Tricycle, London, October 1-November 16

Moira Buffini
Indhu Rubasingham
Tricycle Theatre
Marion Bailey, Stella Gonet, Clare Holman, Neet Mohan, Jeff Rawle, Fenella Woolgar
Running time
2hrs 15mins
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