"Handbagged" by Moira Buffini
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Although nothing has been written down and recorded for posterity, this play indicates what the conversations may have been like between The Queen and Margaret Thatcher in their weekly meetings at Buckingham Palace. Given their public persona this at first glance, may not seem the most interesting of plays. But how wrong you may be.....
The play shows The Queen as having a sharp and wicked sense of humour who at times seemed bored in the presence of Mrs T, zoning in and out of the conversation. Mrs Thatcher was serious throughout and the only time she neared cracking a joke, she denied it vehemently. It's rather nice to see The Queen portrayed as having a fun and humorous outlook as well as being laid back, and, even though I'm not a royalist, I'd love to think that her Maj was really like this behind closed doors.
Susie Blake (Victoria Wood, Coronation Street) played the older Queen Elizabeth and was lovely to notice the regal mannerisms, obviously a lot of scrutinising of the Queen has gone into the spadework for this performance.Susie is a stunning looking lady and the make up, while making her look like our Sovereign, made her look quite pallid.
The costume and make up crew for this production worked wonders in making the equally gorgeous-looking Kate Fahy, not quite so gorgeous. A brilliant job done by Gill MacGregor for the costumes and Hope Watson for the wigs and make-up. Without these two, this show would not be quite so believable.
Maggie is played, in her latter days by Kate Fahy, and whereas Susie looked like a faithful, but loving caricature of our monarch, Kate really looked like the Iron Lady. Every little nuance and foible was spot on. From the way she leaned slightly to her right in stature to the way she walked.The voice was spot on, and we've all seen TV impressionists try and carry that distinctive timbre off, but Kate has it down to a Mrs T.
There are two others as The Queen (Emma Handy) and Mrs Thatcher (Sanchia McCormack) in their younger days as well as tow male actors Asif Khan and Richard Teverson who both play several different roles throughout. It's a good job they told us who they were though! That aside they were rather comical in their various roles, especially Asif in his role as the First Lady of the Whitehouse, resplendent in red skirt and matching top!.
The period covers the whole of the Thatcher years in just over two hours and I felt depicts both female icons as powerful but likeable women, but as I said at the start this is not re-told from literal records and is just in the imaginary story-telling of the author, Moira Buffini. But whose to say this isn't a true picture of what they were like behind closed doors?
There's some unpolitically correct comments, ironic as this is partly about politics, but all the same a very funny play which paints a different picture of both women to the one that the public image depicts. It knocks a lot of the sharp edges off of Thatcher and presents the Queen in a rounder, more jovial image we may have of her. A play not to take too serious though and for entertainment purposes only!
"Handbagged" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 24 October 2015.