Review of Handbagged at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Little vignettes happen in chronological order revealing Margaret Thatcher’s and the Queen’s intellectual perceptions and philosophical responses to major events over the lady premier’s three terms in office.

 Susie Blake - Handbagged - 2015 UK Tour

Susie Blake – Handbagged – 2015 UK Tour

What is clever here is that there are two figureheads and two power crazies on stage for almost the whole time. Alongside the older and more reflective versions of Queen and Thatcher, are a younger Liz and Mags, so we have the same pairing but from an earlier era, one that falls within the living memory and I agree with the man in the audience who said ’years have passed and it seems like only yesterday!’

On the political front we get the feeling the Queen is a socialist at heart, and this point is addressed in the second Act with one or two scathing remarks from Maggie about the Queen not tax contributing for a long time, but without giving too much away, there is much more to it than a roller coaster ride through the fast changing political landscape during the eighties. This play explores how the outlooks of the two women were very different and that there was definite rivalry between them. The two shared a forced kind of friendship through association if nothing else, during a decade or so where both women enjoyed personal successes, but also endured upset and tragedy.

It is ambitious to undertake a play like this in the first place, and to carry it off as well as this set up does in the secondment, is quite remarkable. I need to mention the attention to detail displayed by designer Richard Kent, and the clever speaking and the acting prowess of Susie Blake (Q) and Kate Fahy (T), Emma Handy (Liz) and Sanchia McCormack (Mags). There is much added entertainment value in the multi role performances from Asif Khan and Richard Teverson who play a mix of old school politicians, advisors, leaders, and the other halves of leaders, namely Nancy Reagan, as well as Philip and Denis of course. Great stuff!

Review by theatre critic, Debra Hall, who attended press night at The Belgrade Theatre on Tuesday 06 October



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