Bring a towel… the queen returns to ping pong with Maggie: PATRICK MARMION reviews Handbag


Handbagged (Kiln Theatre, London)

Rating: ***

Verdict: Queen of all surveys

Coming in the middle of our national mourning, the press night for the revival of this satirical comedy – about the 11 years of Buckingham Palace audiences between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher – began with a painfully awkward apology.

Heart obviously in her mouth to avoid being hanged, drawn and quartered for appearing to mock our late monarch, Kiln artistic director Indhu Rubasingham nervously assured us that she and her colleagues had considered “deeply” whether to proceed or not Moira Buffini’s play.

She explained that the show was planned a year before it opened to coincide with the platinum anniversary. They couldn’t know what was coming.

In the midst of our national mourning, the eve of the revival of this satirical comedy began with an apology

In the midst of our national mourning, the eve of the revival of this satirical comedy began with an apology

The play focuses on 11 years of audiences at Buckingham Palace between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher

The play focuses on 11 years of audiences at Buckingham Palace between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher

Both Maggie and the Queen are simultaneously played by older and younger versions of themselves who freely interrupt their thoughts

Both Maggie and the Queen are simultaneously played by older and younger versions of themselves who freely interrupt their thoughts

And in a rare outburst of royalism at the former Irish Republican stronghold on Kilburn High Road, we were asked to share a minute’s silence.

Ironically, something similar happened at the play’s premiere in 2013 – just a few months after Mrs Thatcher’s death. The satirical focus then fell on the former prime minister; and many thought the play tasteless – nor was Lady Thatcher offered the consolation of a minute’s silence.

Fortunately, this time it turns out to be nothing less than an unexpected and poignant joy to see our Queen live again, in a play that shares her alleged impatience with the Prime Minister, who she is said to have called ‘that damned woman’ .

The phrase may be wishful thinking on Buffini’s part. We won’t know the Queen’s exact thoughts about Mrs. T until her private diaries are opened, in another life.

However, Buffini claims that the Queen is a Fortnum & Mason socialist: someone who speaks respectfully of the striking miners, while Maggie anathematizes them as “enemies within”.

Buffini makes much of Mrs Thatcher’s belief in free-market individualism and contrasts it with the Queen’s Christian belief in “interdependence, not nationalism” and “Community, not empire” – quoting Elizabeth from a Christmas speech.

Rubasingham’s production also sees to it that the anti-Thatcher satirical medicine is heavily sugared by Dead Ringer imitations.

But as perfect as the actors are, the format of the play becomes predictable in successive audiences – even with additional characters including Ronald Reagan, Rupert Murdoch, Enoch Powell and Arthur Scargill.

Both Maggie and the Queen are simultaneously played by older and younger versions of themselves, freely interrupting each other’s thoughts. All four are artfully dressed in subtle shades of red, white and blue and the only thing they have in common is a patent leather bag on one hand.

Naomi Frederick has poignant fun sending up the younger Maggie, who extols democracy and opposes socialism (a word she practically loathes). Kate Fahey’s older Iron Lady starts ranting about “wets” and extolling Victorian values. Both versions of the former baroness are suitably deranged.

Thankfully, both versions of the late queen exude the common sense and human warmth we all miss.

Abigail Cruttenden is a particular delight as the girlish younger ‘Liz’, who loves gossip and is confused by Mrs T’s poison.

Marion Bailey as the older and wiser ‘Q’ is saddened that her hopes for national reconciliation may be slipping away. Bring a tissue.

The Glass Menagerie (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

Verdict: A magical menagerie

Rating: ****

An elderly couple walk out within ten minutes of the start of this radical reimagining of Tennessee Williams’s saddest and most autobiographical play for his disabled sister and his worried mother.

But if you can question Atri Banerjee’s production starring Geraldine Somerville, it will reward your faith handsomely. That’s what mine did.

The Rosana Vize Kit is the first thing to balk at. None of the usual cloudy periods. Instead, we have the shiny white floor of an institution with the feel of a psychiatric lounge.

A huge beam descends from above with “HEAVEN” spelled out in neon capitals, an idea drawn from a Martin Creed artwork in which a similar swinging beam bearing the word “MOTHERS” threatens to strike the viewer.

Nor is the mother (Somerville) the usual domestic psychopath. Dressed in a pale pink blouse and skirt, she has a ghostly look and haunts the scene as a lonely woman desperate to save her children from the life of regret that has plagued her.

If you can doubt Atri Banerjee's production starring Geraldine Somerville, it will reward your faith handsomely

If you can doubt Atri Banerjee’s production starring Geraldine Somerville, it will reward your faith handsomely

Rhiannon Clements as her daughter Laura is more wounded than disturbed; and has retreated into a private silo of fragile hope symbolized by her titular trinkets.

Joshua James, as her brother Tom, is burdened with guilt and the need to escape from his family – but he also shows great love and tenderness. All of this raises the stakes for Eloka Ivo as the gentleman caller who can save Laura.

Of course, it is unthinkable that a black man would have been such a suitor in the segregated southern states of 1944, but Ivo’s manly, boyish and sweetly gallant performance rescues the play from this historical straitjacket.

Giles Thomas’ music is no less haunting – sometimes a long single note, at others a whisper of a cello. But there’s also the jarring anachronism of Whitney Houston’s One Moment In Time in a climactic escapist fantasy.

It brings the game up to date drastically, but at least in my opinion it saves it from gathering dust as a convenient antique.

Some may consider it vandalism. I could have been, but I wasn’t. I left deeply moved.

Love All (Jermyn Street Theatre, London)

Verdict: Girls on top

Rating: ****

By Georgina Brown

Best known as the Queen of Crime and for creating Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy L. Sayers was also a talented playwright.

Unseen (until now) since its premiere in 1940, Everybody’s Love is not a lost masterpiece, but an overlooked little sparkler that nails the unfair and unequal career prospects of men and women and wittily celebrates girl power, decades ahead of its time. its time.

When middle-aged romantic Godfrey Daybrook convinces Lydia, an actress and his lover, to elope to Venice, she expects him to divorce his wife and put a ring on her.

Love All, unseen (until now) since its premiere in 1940, is not a lost masterpiece, but a neglected little sparkler

Love All, unseen (until now) since its premiere in 1940, is not a lost masterpiece, but a neglected little sparkler

Period-perfect performances give Tom Littler's production of Swan Song a great slice and bite

Period-perfect performances give Tom Littler’s production of Swan Song a great slice and bite

Some 18 months later, Emily Barber’s charmingly spoiled, sassy, ​​over-privileged Lydia is still single – and baking pretty in an apartment on a stinky Venetian canal, lamenting the loss of her reputation, her job and her looks. In fact, she grows bored playing the muse to Alan Cox’s vain, patronizing, smug Godfrey, the only role a woman can and should aspire to, he says. Just like he thinks his wife’s job is to raise the son he abandoned.

Some of the lines have the epigrammatic click, crackle and crackle of Noel Coward or Oscar Wilde. “You never know what goes on inside a secretary. They have meaningless faces, like eggs,” Lydia says. “Every great man has had a woman behind him – and every great woman has had a man in front of her who tripped her up,” says Godfrey’s wife Edith (Leah Whittaker).

Both are well illustrated by the plot, in which the vastly underrated women in Godfrey’s life—his playwright-turned-wife, his super-astute secretary, and his mistress—first pierce his pomposity and then ring him, eventually makes it irrelevant.

Period-perfect performances give the production of Tom Littler’s swan song a great slice and bite. He left to run the Orange Tree in Richmond, leaving the smallest theater in London’s West End – and big shoes to fill.

Who Killed My Father (Young Vic, London)

Verdict: A colossal performance

Rating: ****

Such is the power of Hans Kesting's extraordinary performance that I consider it one of the most compelling turns I have ever seen on stage

Such is the power of Hans Kesting’s extraordinary performance that I regard it as one of the most compelling turns I have ever seen on stage

Ultimately, Who Killed My Father becomes a clumsy call for revolution – but Kesting's performance is simply colossal

Ultimately, Who Killed My Father becomes a clumsy call for revolution – but Kesting’s performance is simply colossal

In Who Killed My Father, which closes at the Young Vic tomorrow night after a short run, it’s as if Rodin’s huge stone sculpture of Born the Thinker had swayed to its feet and started muttering in a Dutch accent. Such is the power of Hans Kesting’s extraordinary performance that I consider it one of the most fascinating turns I have ever seen on stage.

Adapted and directed by avant-garde director Ivo van Hove, the play – about a man who visits his dying working-class father in the industrial backwaters of northern France – is based on a semi-autobiographical book by Edouard Louis.

Kesting plays both the gay son and the self-destructive father, and as dark as the story is, his gruff stage presence blew me away. He’s a caveman with a shaved head, wearing an oversized blue knit sweater, baggy jeans and a pair of cheap sneakers, collapsing beneath his unyielding superstructure.

Ultimately, Who Killed My Father boils down to a clumsy call for revolution – but Kesting’s performance is simply colossal.



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