Handbagged is a comedy by Moira Buffini and has recently been produced by the New Vic theatre, directed by Fiona Buffini and designed by Olivia Du Monceau.
Handbagged is a show that imagines what might have happened when the two most powerful women in the country met in private. They look back over their relationship, and their younger selves. Peers but not friends the characters come face-to-face, often with clashing views and opinions, which welcomes the audience to see what might have happened in those secret meetings.
I felt the importance of producing a place such as Handbagged has been well placed in the context of our current social and political situations, the play welcomes us as an audience to have a deeper understanding not just about ourselves, but about the society we are living in.
The play highlights a time of huge social and political change and a time of great division and unrest. The Cold War was at its height and the possibility of a nuclear war was reflected in the music of the time (Two Tribes by Frankie Goes to Hollywood). It was a very violent time: the Falklands war, the winner’s strike, the protests and the rioting.
Handbagged is far more than a documentary, although all the facts in the play are true. It is a remarkable play for a number of reasons. Firstly the piece in my opinion is very balanced and the views of each side are represented. This means that the play can be enjoyed by people who love or loathed Thatcher, and by monarchists and republicans alike. Secondly, as a younger member of the audience the historical content of the piece was made clear and easy to follow, this also made it ring true to those who do remember. Thirdly despite some of the very serious subject matters, it is very funny. It never felt like a history lesson, a political diatribe or a lecture – I as an audience member was simply able to enjoy the characters.
Nobody knows what was really said in the meetings, nor what they really thought of each other. these two iconic woman seem very familiar to us and yet feel very hidden too. Neither of them were given to public displays of emotion, and the Queen avoids expressing opinion. The piece brings tremendous imagination, wit and depth to their imagined meetings and through them, we are encouraged to think about who we are as a nation. Which I feel at present day is a question we should be asking.