Handbagged By Moira Buffini
Directed by Indhu Rubasingham
“Handbagged” opened Thursday at 59E59 Theaters.
Review by Brenda Repland
Set between 1979 and 1990 when Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s Prime Minister, the play offers a peek at the weekly meetings between Britain’s monarch, Queen Elizabeth II and the head of government. There had been great rumors about their presumed-to-be prickly relationship. But while many of the interactions do seem plausible, we are often reminded that they are based on surmise and NOT on fact.
The women have different perspectives and tastes, quite obviously from their individual backgrounds. When Thatcher is forced to travel to Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands for a meeting with the Queen (who adores the place) she confides that “it is more stressful than a NATO Summit!”
Both characters are portrayed by a pair of actors, representing the older and younger versions of their famous personages.
We see both women’s reactions to the many historical events of the time, including the infamous Poll tax, the Falkland Islands, Thatcher’s election campaigns and the Cold War.
While the Queen does seem to view her subjects with a kind heart, she also reveals just how remote royalty can be from the life of the common man. In a most telling disclosure, she confesses that she personally equated (emotionally) the death of Thatcher’s long career with the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht.
The two do not always agree on governmental policies. Running through the very proper and civil discussions is an undercurrent of the competition for power – royal vs. governmental.
The Queen reminding us that she heads the Commonwealth – a worldwide organization.
Thatcher’s frequent claim to success is that SHE ended the Cold War.
Known as the “Iron Lady,” Thatcher was both praised and condemned for her strength. Her retort: “Ladies, should we be censored for our strength?”
The title comes from the observation that both women carried handbags as an object of power.
The acting is excellent. All four actresses (Kate Fahy, Anita Carey, Susan Lynskey and Beth Hylton) are perfect. Cody Leroy Wilson and John Lescault take several parts; the former including an enthusiastic Nancy Reagan and the latter running the gamut from Thatcher’s husband, Dennis to numerous political figures.