Handbagged opened last night at London’s Vaudeville Theatre having transferred from the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. Telling the story of Queen Elizabeth II and her relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during her reign throughout the 1980s. It is a lesson in history about the events that took place during that time and shows why Thatcher earned herself the title of The Iron Lady.
Handbagged is a comedic look at the pairs life together, beautifully told through the eyes of Marion Bailey and Stella Gonet, reflecting on their time together (in the roles of ‘older queen’ and ‘older thatcher’) whilst watching their younger selves Lucy Robinson and Fenella Woolgar perform scenes from their life.
Other brief roles are played by Neet Mohan and Jeff Rawle who comedically inform the audience of who they are going to be playing next during their performance. These roles act as a sort of narration throughout the show and whilst they didn’t feel entirely necessary, it probably would have been harder to follow the play without them.
Whilst the cast of 6 are all very strong in their performances, it is the older Queen Elizabeth II (Marion Bailey) who steals the show with her sideways glances and shaking of the head when she disagrees with the things being said.
The Vaudeville Theatre is a lovely place to look at but with only one entrance and one exit it means there is a real struggle to get in and out of the building and make your way to your seats. With recent events in mind, it also raises the question ‘how would we all get out if something were to happen’? In all honestly, I’m not convinced we would.
Now, I love Twitter as much as anyone but despite being told before every performance that mobile phones are not allowed, some audience members still choose to ignore this rule. In a serious play like Handbagged (where concentration is required) it was even more unsettling to see the woman sat next to me checking her Twitter account every two minutes. I don’t see that anything so important could be happening on Twitter that you can’t wait an hour to read it (even my tweets aren’t that exciting)!
The audience loved Handbagged and roared with laughter a lot more than I did (although I have always glazed over the idea of politics and focused my concentration on the bright lights of theatre and so it is unsurprising that some of it went over my head). Speaking of ‘The Audience’, it is impossible to not mention the similarities between the recent show starring Helen Mirren and Handbagged. Whilst The Audience focused on the queens relationships with all her Prime Ministers, Handbagged is an expanded version of the thatcher segment from this show.
Handbagged is an easily digestible history lesson, told through humour and brilliant acting. Go see it if you want to learn about what happened in the 1980’s or if you want a trip down memory lane to when Britain’s one and only female Prime Minister was in power.
Handbagged is playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until 2 August 2014.
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Reviewed by West End Wilma