Image courtesy of Catherine Bromley.
The new West-End comedy Handbagged has attracted much attention this year and has, this autumn, come to Edinburgh. Written by Moira Buffini, the play parodies the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and the Queen during Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister in the 80’s. Nominated for the Olivier award for “Best New Comedy 2015” and winning “Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre”, Handbagged is well deserving of the praise that it has generated.
The industrial style staging gives the illusion of the Union Jack with nothing but two armchairs and a moveable coffee table to accompany it. The ensures that the action and dialogue of the play are the main focus, with little distraction. The cast was also minimalist with two Queens and two Thatchers – the older pair giving intermittent retrospective commentaries on the younger pair from the 80’s – accompanied by two male actors who rushed covered every other part in the play, such as the Regans. The two men often stole the show as they drifted out of character and offered up social commentaries and history lessons for the younger members in the audience. Most of the dialogue was aimed at the audience as though the cast were giving speeches to the public, with many allusions to the Queen’s Christmas speeches from those years.
The cast as a whole were commendable but it must be said that Susie Blake, who played the ballsy, unapologetic, older Queen deserves particular commendation. Blake was responsible for much of the laughter that rippled throughout the audience during the show. The audience laughed with the Queen, whilst they often laughed at Thatcher.
The production ends on a solemn, touching note with a nod to the Iron Lady’s later struggle with dementia. This rounded out her character well, managing to generate sympathy for the character who had been depicted as a bully throughout the production, mirroring Thatcher’s reputation throughout her life.
Full of controversial politics, famous figures and satirical genius, Handbagged is a must see for all people, of all ages.