Handbagged at the Kiln Theatre

Handbagged Reviews at the Kiln Theatre ★★★★

Reviews are in for the long-planned revival of Moira Buffini’s Handbagged, which opened last night at the Kiln Theatre in London.

Starring Marion Bailey and Kate Fahy, who reprise their roles of ‘Q’, an Older Queen Elizabeth II and ‘T’, an Older Margaret Thatcher, they are joined by Romayne Andrews, Richard Cant, Abigail Cruttenden and Naomi Frederick.

Indhu Rubasingham directs this extremely timely return of Moira Buffini’s Olivier Award winning comedy, that imagines what the world’s most powerful women Margaret Thatcher and Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II, talked about behind closed palace doors.

The original production premiered at the Kiln Theatre in 2013 before moving to the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre in 2014.

Handbagged runs at the Kiln until 22 October 2022.

More reviews to follow.

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Average Critics Rating

Handbagged reviews

The Telegraph

"I was transfixed and moved by this uncanny portrait of the late Queen"

"It's worth queueing round the block for Moira Buffini's play, which depicts the meetings between Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher"

"All I can say is that I was transfixed and moved in ways I don’t recall being when the production premiered shortly after Baroness Thatcher’s death in 2013."

"Those coming to terms with the end of an era, and seeking some means to express their devotion too, should queue round the block to see this."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Guardian

"Sparks fly at the Queen’s audiences with the Iron Lady"

"Moira Buffini’s clever political comedy returns, educating a new generation on Margaret Thatcher’s legacy through her weekly encounters with the monarch"

"Almost a decade on this is still a clever, funny and charming political comedy, perhaps a little overstretched in its conceit, with four exceptional performances that almost upstage the script itself."

"Richard Kent’s stage design is an elegantly decorative white canvas resembling an architectural cat’s cradle to suggest a game of cat and mouse. It sits well with Buffini’s meta-theatrical framing"

"The most chilling, and exhilarating, moment comes in Kinnock’s “I warn you …” speech before Thatcher’s re-election which foresees, with such clear-eyed prescience, where we might end up"

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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The Times

"A flight of fancy in Queen’s encounters with Thatcher"

"... if Buffini’s satire is full of mischief and gossip, it creates a sympathetic image of a monarch, a unifying figure in an era of profound upheaval. Mrs T comes off much worse: what we get is very much the standard narrative of a triumphalist, tone-deaf Tory leader trampling over the rights of working people."

"If it’s an unashamedly partisan piece of story-telling, it’s also very funny"

"It’s genuinely affecting to see how accurately Marion Bailey evokes the older Queen Elizabeth. Abigail Cruttenden is equally convincing as the younger incarnation. If Naomi Frederick looks a tad too youthful as Mrs Thatcher in her prime, she channels her personality admirably, while Kate Fahy gives us an eerily accurate impersonation of the older, bruised leader."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Evening Standard

"History repeats itself in this imagining of the Queen and Thatcher"

"This long-planned revival finds itself carrying even more posthumous weight"

"Moira Buffini’s smart, sharp play about the Queen’s supposedly antagonistic relationship with Margaret Thatcher"

"Here we see what happens when an apparently unstoppable force meets an apparently immoveable object, Thatcher strident and awkward, the Queen secure and emollient."

"Buffini’s queen is arguably too much of a liberal fantasy and her Thatcher too much of a Gorgon, the former always defending the poor and minorities against the latter’s support for divisive internal policies and racist regimes abroad. Right now, neither of these exaggerations feels like a capital offence. This is a delightful show, more timely than it was ever meant to be."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Stage

"An exceptional cast"

"Uproarious dramatisation of Thatcher’s royal audiences becomes a freshly poignant tribute"

"Buffini’s script is immensely funny, but the well-researched, subtle characterisation of the leads prevents the hilarity from slipping into caricature. Thatcher is presented as a bumbling ideological obsessive, wearing her political persona like a suit of armour. The Queen, meanwhile, has an air of unimpeachable authority, but her inability to speak freely – due to her constitutional position and her lack of education – gives her an air of slight sadness."

"Richard Kent’s design offers an impressive spectacle, with every detail from the richly evocative 1980s costumes to the crisp sugar lump plopped in the Queen’s china teacup carefully considered."

Nick Ferris, The Stage
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The Financial Times

"Comedy about the Queen and Thatcher has new layer of poignancy"

"Some plays have topicality thrust upon them."

"... while charmingly irreverent, Buffini’s play (first shown in 2013) is far from disrespectful: behind all the comic exchanges lies a measure of sympathy for those in high office and the portrayal of the Queen is witty and affectionate. Meanwhile the issues Buffini considers — the role of the constitutional monarchy, the machinery of state, the limitations on each leader — feel particularly current."

"It’s certainly a play that’s tougher on Thatcher than on the Queen, who emerges here as a champion of social equality — it could apply greater scrutiny to both the monarchy and the electoral system. But it’s clever, drolly enjoyable and has now acquired a new layer of poignancy, as the events it depicts slip further into history."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Observer

"Moira Buffini’s damning satire ... acquires poignancy"

"Buffini’s play is, not unexpectedly, far more merciful to the Queen than to Mrs Thatcher, and in Bailey’s hands, satire came close to tribute. She brings sweetness, kindness and intelligence to the role."

"This is an entertaining, pacy and damning scamper through Thatcher’s 11 years in power. She is also played by two actors to represent her older and younger selves. Naomi Frederick plays the younger with vim, but it is Kate Fahy, the elder, who steals the show. She has mastered Maggie to comic perfection, catching precisely the faux-hushed, breathy quality of the later voice – at its most mannish when in pursuit of femininity. It’s an excruciating pleasure to hear her. Fahy has also mastered the strange up-and-down movements of the head when speaking, like a nodding dog mascot but more swayingly unpredictable."

Kate Kellaway, The Observer
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📷 Main photo: Handbagged at the Kiln Theatre. Photo by Tristram Kenton

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