No one really knows what happened between Queen Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher in their private meetings. But Moira Buffini's Handbagged plays with the relationship between the two women, who can't seem to agree on anything. And in this very self-aware show, their disagreements even extend to whether or not their should be an intermission.
And in this play with an arguing Queen and Prime Minister, we are given not just one, but two of each. Mags (Susan Lynskey) and Liz (Beth Hylton) represent the pair during the tumult of the 1980s, while T (Kate Fahy) and Q (Anita Carey) are the older versions of the two, trying to set the record straight, and occasionally refuting things their younger selves are saying.
While the exploration of the women's relationship is both comedic and fascinating in and of itself, the Queens and Prime Ministers are accompanied on stage by Actor 1 (Cody Leroy Wilson) and Actor 2 (John Lescault), who play all the various other people needed to detail the time when Thatcher was Prime Minister. Everybody from Rupert Murdoch to Nancy Reagan makes an appearance, sometimes only for a few seconds.
And while the two men are mostly playing all the men necessary to the lives of the two women, they are also there to provide a commentary about what really mattered during the time. They raise questions about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the Miners' Strike, and much more. In a play whose main focus is about two women with very different backgrounds and views on the world, it adds a layer of perspective for the rest of us.
When it comes down to Buffini's opinion of the two women (and the variety of side characters that weave their way into this story), it seems that she prefers the Queen, giving her some snappy one-liners to throw at Thatcher. However, at the end of the day, while no one may know what really happened behind the closed doors at Buckingham Palace, Buffini provides the audience with a clever and thoughtful piece on two women who each have made history.