The Queen vs Mrs Thatcher in Tricycle's 'witty' Handbagged

Oct 7, 2013

Moira Buffini's 'delightfully comic' play imagines the meetings between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher

Win a pair of tickets to see Handbagged at the Vaudeville Theatre, London: simply email your name and a phone number to

What you need to know Moira Buffini's expanded version of Handbagged has opened at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn. A shorter version was staged at the venue in 2010 (before Peter Morgan's The Audience) but Buffini has now expanded it into a full-length play directed by Indhu Rubasingham.

In Handbagged Buffini blends historical drama and comedy to depict the weekly meetings between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher during the late prime minister's 11 years in power. The older and younger Queen are known respectively known as Q and Liz, while the older and younger Thatcher, are T and Mags.

Marion Bailey and Stella Gonet play the older versions of the Queen and Margaret Thatcher, while Clare Holman and Fenella Woolgar play the characters in their younger days. Runs until 9 November.

What the critics like "This is a delightfully comic play, but it is also is also blessed with emotional depth and human sympathy," says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. If ever a fringe show looked a dead cert for a West End transfer it is this superbly fluent and entertaining production with outstanding performances.

"This is a witty, thoughtful history lesson that also reflects on what history is,"says Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times. In Indhu Rubasingham's deft production the central quartet (Woolgar, Gonet, Holman and Bailey) is tremendous.

"The larkiness and deliberate artificiality stop it being mere satire," says Libby Purves in The Times. Handbagged is pure theatre, doing something only theatre can and it should, as Maggie would say, go On and On.

What they don't like
"The play has odd duff moments, especially in the scenes involving the broadly caricatured Reagans," says Michael Billington in The Guardian. And the substance is obviously speculation, but behind the jokiness lies a fascinating fictional portrait of two women who entertained opposing ideas of Britain's role in the world.

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What about a new title - Bitch on Bitch!!

...rather a nasty comment - both women have done so much for this country - notably the Queen.

Would you find it acceptable if somebody denigrated your mother in that manner?