Kiln Theatre, London, until October 29
The Kiln Theatre could not of course have foreseen the Queen’s death when it scheduled its revival of Handbagged, but it has done the play, about her relationship with Margaret Thatcher, no favours at all.
There have been no end of testimonies on the television lately to how the monarch never once put a foot wrong and always kept her political views to herself, but the playwright Moira Buffini invites us to believe she was to all intents and purposes a socialist who abhorred just about everything Thatcher stood for.
I loved this play the first time I saw it almost a decade ago, but I think that
must have had a lot to do with the infinitely superior cast. Only Marion
Bailey is still around as the older Queen, and she seems understandably self-conscious about inviting punters to laugh at her.
It’s hard now not to see the play for what it is – a piece of clumsy political
polemic that makes little, if any, attempt to get under the skin of its protagonists (Kate Fahy and Naomi Frederick are little more than grotesque caricatures of Thatcher).
Buffini has made no concession at all to the fact the Queen has died. The
production – directed once again by Indhu Rubasingham – all feels now
like a joke in very poor taste.
Don’t let the facts get in the way of a feeble play, but it so happens the real
Queen attended Thatcher’s 80th birthday party and, seeing how frail the Iron Lady had become, she touchingly offered her a supportive hand – so maybe she didn’t detest her so much, after all.