HANDBAGGED: Buffini, Theatre Royal Nottingham till 24th October (touring)

Nottingham/Touring.

HANDBAGGED: Moira Buffini.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Touring Information: Eleanor Lloyd Productions.
Runs: 2h 10m: one interval: till 24th October.
Performance times: 7.30pm, (Matinees 2.00pm Weds and 2.30pm Sat).
Review: Alan Geary: 27th July 2015.

Funny certainly. But there’s also depth and complexity.

Handbagged is very funny. And it’s not simply down to the line “Every Prime Minister needs a willy”, which Thatcher actually spoke in tribute to William Whitelaw, her Deputy. But there’s also depth and complexity in the play, generated by Moira Buffini’s text rather than the nature of the performances.

Susie Blake, as the older Queen (Q), and Kate Fahy, as, the older Thatcher (T) go for and achieve brilliant impressions rather than character exploration. Emma Handy and Sanchia McCormack, as Liz and Mags, their younger versions, also take the same approach, arguably less successfully. “Arguably” because recollections of the younger real-life personages are now relatively faint or even non-existent.

It’s all highly meta-theatrical: the fourth wall is breeched so often it disappears – there’s a spontaneous audience response when the miners’ strike comes up, and friction between the supporting actors over who’s playing whom, notably when it comes to Kinnock. Actor 1 (Asif Khan), who does Nancy Reagan, in a red twinset, is often less convincing than Actor 2 (Richard Teverson), who’s very good on Dennis and, especially, Rupert Murdoch. It’s Teverson who openly concedes they too are opting for caricature.

In neat changes of standpoint and time all the characters step out of the action to become narrators. Buffini never makes it clear what was and what wasn’t actually said: frequently, when Liz and Mags are conversing, M or Q are made, reliably or otherwise, to put us right with “I didn’t say that”.

The Queen comes over as a distinctly sympathetic. We’re reminded that, for an upper-upper-class woman, she has achieved a remarkably wide experience of all walks of life; she tells Thatcher that she’s actually been down a coal mine. She’s portrayed as a one-nation Tory, at ease with the consensus that ended with Thatcher’s premiership. Thatcher comes over as, well, Thatcherite.

But we get a touching, and fleeting, reminder that these women had some things in common besides their age. When they’re talking home-made jam the scene carries deep implications about things like a sense of commitment, family ties and patriotism. And it’s reinforced by a stark art deco Union Flag set.

Q: Susie Blake.
T: Kate Fahy.
Liz: Emma Handy.
Actor 1: Asif Khan.
Mags: Sanchia McCormack.
Actor 2: Richard Teverson.

Director: Indhu Rubasingham.
Designer: Richard Kent.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.

2015-10-23 11:27:51

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