Distinguished playwright Moira Buffini (Manor) makes the pair’s constant blows sardonic, cutting and entertaining throughout. This is not a high brow psychological drama (there is room for that, which is a missed opportunity) but a laugh-out-loud crowd pleaser that at times has the audience roaring in their seats.
There are two depictions of the protagonists: the elder and the younger Lizzie and Maggie, with the elders acting at times as the internal voices of the younger rulers. It’s an enjoyable concept: the characters sometimes bickering with themselves, disagreeing on how historical events played out. Marion Bailey as Q (the elderly queen, who performed in the original 2014 production) has fabulous comic timing, with Abigail Cruttenden complimenting her as Liz the younger who brings a real warmth to her portrayal of the Queen. Kate Fahy as T (the elderly Thatcher) is pitch perfect: steely, determined, rippling with indignation if someone has the ignorance to cross her. Naomi Frederick as the younger Mags is equally made of iron: cold, ambitious, alarmingly detached from her emotions.
Surrounding these four female giants, two male actors multirole a whirlwind of noteworthy political characters including Nancy Reagan, Gerry Adams, and Rupert Murdoch to name a few. These are performed with aplomb by Romayne Andrews and Richard Cant (who incidentally acted in The Crown).
Romanyne Andrews (Actor 1), Marion Bailey (Q), Abigail Cruttenden (Liz), Naomi Frederick (Mags), Kate Fahy (T). Photo: Tristram Kenton
In terms of drama, the protagonists are unequally weighted when it comes to their morality. Thatcher is posed as a devilish figure: unempathetic, self-serving and cruel, whereas the Queen is made out to be a charitable figure who is deeply concerned about social inequality and racism. This feels at odds with her reign where the monarch upheld class privilege and wealth disparity. This blunt ‘good versus evil’ portrayal naturally means the audience sides with the Queen in all disputes; it does not allow for nuance in her depiction and brushes over any complexity in the tension between the two women. It also means there is no surprise or dramatic stakes in the action.
Additionally, we never really feel for the characters or truly connect with them. To be fair to playwright Buffini, she is working with two protagonists who are extremely reserved in their emotions, and part of the Queen’s remit was to never give her opinion. But in drama there is something potent missing when you don’t bond with the characters on an emotional or visceral level.
That being said, the show’s goal is to make you laugh, not make you cry. It has a vibrant cast, a humorous script, and a director who wants to give you a great night out at the theatre.
|What||Handbagged, Kiln Theatre review|
|Where||Kiln Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 7JR | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Kilburn High Road (overground)|
15 Sep 22 – 29 Oct 22, 7:30 PM – 9:45 PM
|Price||£15 - £35|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|