Review Roundup: HANDBAGGED at the Tricycle Theatre
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Michael Coveney from whatsonstage.com says: Almost as a rider to that last movie, Stella Gonet's senior Thatcher reminds us at the end that you don't die of dementia, you live with it. And the central relationship of the two women is developed through the weekly audiences and their guarded, growing mutual respect... But in having two Queens (Marion Bailey and Claire Holman) and two Thatchers (Gonet and the show-stealing, utterly brilliant Fenella Woolgar), Buffini can toy - and this play is nothing if not delightfully ludic - with inner and outer thoughts, reflections and reactions, private and public personae, performance and reality.
Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph writes: If ever a fringe show looked a dead cert for a West End transfer it is this one. Moira Buffini depicts the weekly meetings between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher during the late prime minister's 11 years in power... At which point you might well be saying "haven't we been here before?" We have indeed, in Peter Morgan's The Audience, starring Helen Mirren and Haydn Gwynne.
Michael Billington of the Guardian says: Buffini's brightest idea is to double the central roles. So we get an older and younger Queen, respectively known as Q and Liz. Equally we get an older and younger Thatcher, identified as T and Mags. Add in two male actors playing 17 other roles, ranging from Kenneth Kaunda to Rupert Murdoch, and you have what sounds like a recipe for confusion. In fact, Buffini's device gives the whole evening a buoyant, meta-theatrical playfulness. The older Q spends much of the play trying to hustle the action along in order to get to the interval. And the two Thatchers, while consistent in their detestation of socialism, often lapse into a good cop/bad cop routine that says a lot about the late PM's contradictory techniques.
Libby Purves of the Times says: ...There are two of each: Marion Bailey is the Queen at her present age, Stella Gonet an elderly Thatcher; their 1980s selves are Clare Holman and Fenella Woolgar... All are unnervingly good in appearance and especially movement. It is very funny. But the comedy does not rely only on them, but also on two male actors, Jeff Rawle and Neet Mohan, supposedly press-ganged into playing 17 other parts from Kaunda to Ronald Reagan and Gerry Adams. Wonderful jokes arise from this... This larkiness and deliberate artificiality stop it being mere satire... Pure theatre, doing something only theatre can. It should, as Maggie would say, go On and On.