Handbagged

Previewed 3 April 2014, Opened 10 April 2014, Closed 2 August 2014 at the Vaudeville Theatre in London

Moira Buffini's new play Handbagged in London's West End following a critically acclaimed at the Tricycle Theatre in North-West London.

The monarch: Liz. Her most powerful subject: Maggie. Two enduring icons born six months apart. One destined to rule, the other elected to lead. But when the stiff upper lip softened and the gloves came off, which one had the upper hand? Playwright Moira Buffini imagines Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's weekly meetings with Queen Elizabeth II. Originally staged at the Tricycle Theatre, this production now transfers to the West End for a strictly limited season.

The cast for Handbagged in London features Fenella Woolgar as younger 'Margaret Thatcher', Stella Gonet as older 'Margaret Thatcher', Lucy Robinson as younger 'Queen Elizabeth' and Marion Bailey as older 'Queen Elizabeth' with all other roles played by Neet Mohan and Jeff Rawle. The entire cast are reprising their roles apart from Lucy Robinson who is joining the cast for the run at the Vaudeville Theatre. Casting subject to change without notice. The production is directed by Indhu Rubasingham with designs by Richard Kent, lighting by Oliver Fenwick and sound by Carolyn Downing. Moira Buffini's previous London theatre credits include the comedy Dinner at the National Theatre's temporary Loft Theatre Space and the Wyndham's Theatre in 2002/2003.

When this production opened in London Dominic Maxwell in the Times said that "Moira Buffini's wickedly witty account of the weekly private meetings between Margaret Thatcher and the Queen manages to be highly fanciful and densely factual." Over in the Guardian Lyn Gardner thought that "Moira Buffini and director Indhu Rubasingham handle it with such delicate wit that this titanic struggle between two women of different backgrounds but of similar ages becomes fascinating and affecting... it's a show that cleverly explores the nature of history." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard highlighted that "Moira Buffini's witty and confident conjectural take on the weekly meetings between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher during the 11 years of the latter's premiership was outstanding when it opened at the Tricycle Theatre last autumn. Now, given room to breathe in a bigger West End theatre, it's even more cherishable." When this same production was seen last year at the Tricycle Theatre Paul Taylor in the Independent commented that in "tracking their tricky relationship through the 11 years of the Thatcher premiership and beyond, Handbagged manages to tackle some pretty familiar material in a genuinely fresh and irresistibly mischievous spirit," in "Indhu Rubasingham's excellent production."

The playwright Moira Buffini said regarding writing this play that "When Indhu came to me with the Women, Power and Politics season [at the Tricycle Theatre in 2010] and asked if I would write a play, it seemed that Margaret Thatcher - as the most dominant woman in politics in our times - was an obvious place to start. But I wanted to put her interestingly - not with all the men with whom she operated, but with the one other woman of similar status, who she had to meet every week for all those years she was in power. And the Queen is interesting to me, as this strange figure in our country who is both powerful and powerless. The rumours surrounding the Queen and Margaret Thatcher are fantastic; full of drama and humour. Their relationship is an ideal basis for a piece of theatre."

"Barely a year after Peter Morgan dramatised the Queen's weekly meetings with eight of her prime ministers in The Audience comes Moira Buffini's Handbagged, a superior and more enjoyable play, which charts the Queen's uneasy relationship with Mrs Thatcher. Buffini's mischievous and subversive script uses the much rumoured antipathy between the two women to great effect... Handbagged is enormous fun, not least when pitting the Queen's dry wit against Mrs Thatcher's lack of humour... The glory of Indhu Rubasingham's fluent and inventive production lies in the four splendid actresses who play the protagonists: Marion Bailey and Lucy Robinson as the older and younger Queen, and Stella Gonet and Fenella Woolgar as the older and younger Mrs Thatcher." The Express on Sunday

"Six months ago, when I first saw Handbagged at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, I said that if there's any justice in this world, Moira Buffini's funny, insightful and beautifully acted play about Margaret Thatcher's relationship with the Queen would be granted a West End transfer... it delights me to acknowledge that justice has now been done. The show has arrived at the Vaudeville in triumph and with the cast more or less intact... It remains a phenomenon... Only a director of Indhu Rubasingham's sensitivity could cope with the gear changes that shift the action from slapstick to moments of almost unbearable pathos... This is a fresh, exciting and intelligent piece of theatre." The Sunday Telegraph

"What went on between the nation's two most powerful women at their weekly meetings in the 1980s?... Now, expanding on a shorter piece written for the Tricycle's 2010 project, Women, Power And Politics, Moira Buffini puts the pair, described by Her Majesty as being like different sides of the same coin, head-to-head. The results, though they have a whiff of sketch comedy, are shrewd, witty and playfully metatheatrical... Stella Gonet and Marion Bailey are terrific as T and Q, every mannerism acutely observed without straying into Spitting Image caricature. And there's real political ire in Buffini's writing. A clever, mischievous little pleasure with the sharp teeth of a kicked corgi." The Metro

"Moira Buffini's play considers the Queen's relationship with Margaret Thatcher, zipping through 11 years of meetings. The evening is skittish, rather than solemn... but Indhu Rubasingham's production frequently gets you tittering happily and occasionally clucking - where will depend on your political bent. Different actors play the women's younger and older selves, so there are two PMs and Queens on stage. Marion Bailey is a peerless ER; Stella Gonet's Mrs T is alternately peeved and preening." The Sunday Times

Handbagged in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 3 April 2014, opened on 10 April 2014 and closed on 2 August 2014.