Undoubtably one of the theatrical highlights of the past year was Handbagged, Moira Buffin’s latest play tells the tales of the Queen’s weekly meetings with Margaret Thatcher. Premiering at the Tricycle Theatre in October 2013, the sold out run won an Olivier Award and transferred to the West End. It was commissioned by the Tricycles new artistic director Indu Rubasingham.
The play arrived at the Vaudeville Theatre with the cast more or less in tact; only Clare Holman was substituted as the younger monarch by Lucy Robinson. As the slogan stated “Liz. Maggie. Tea at four. Handbags at dawn.”
Two enduring icons of the 20th Century, born six months apart – what did the world’s most powerful women talk about? It’s a shrews piece that cleverly explores what might have gone on behind closed doors.
The play’s runaway success, and unanimous critical acclaim, depended in large on the brilliant performances of its four actresses who play older and younger versions of the two leaders. Marion Bailey is the older monarch sitting in judgement of her younger self, and the older Maggie played by Stella Gonet looks back on the woman that she was in office “embodied with all her mannerisms down to a T” by Fenella Woolgar. As The Telegraph’s Tim Walker stated in his five star review, “only a director of Indhu Rubasingham’s sensitivity could cope with the gear changes that shift the action form slapstick to moments of unbearable pathos.”
All four kindly singed my sketch in the final week, as the play completed its Vaudeville run on Saturday 2 August.