Handbagged a hit for the Tricycle
Moira Buffini's new play, born from the Tricycle's ''Women, Power and Politics'' in 2010, opened at the Tricycle Theatre this week. Starring Stella Gonet, Fenella Woolgar, Marion Bailey and Claire Holman, it runs until 16 November
…in having two Queens (Marion Bailey and Claire Holman) and two Thatchers (Gonet and the show-stealing, utterly brilliant Fenella Woolgar), Buffini can toy – and this play is nothing if not delightfully ludic – with inner and outer thoughts, reflections and reactions, private and public personae, performance and reality… The Audience was marvellous, but this is rougher, funnier, more satirical stuff… Indhu Rubasingham's careful, clever and always enjoyable production is designed by Richard Kent as a conceptual outline of Buckingham Palace incorporating Union Jack motifs, but the end result is an elegant arrangement of white trellis, an ideal setting...
…Vivid performances are the great strength of Indhu Rubasingham's lively, clear production. As the Queen we have Marion Bailey, permed yet vaguely frisky, and Clare Holman as the younger version, rigid without being priggish. Meanwhile, Stella Gonet and Fenella Woolgar play the Iron Lady. Gonet perfectly captures her tough-talking pragmatism and Woolgar does a brilliant job of evoking not just the regal smoothness of Mrs Thatcher's voice but also many of her mannerisms, such as that recurrent look of surprised distaste… At times there is too much historical exposition and the desire to chronicle the turbulence of Thatcher's 11 years in power means that some episodes feel squeezed. Still, this is a sparky portrait of political and emotional flux, occasionally disturbing and often wickedly funny.
If ever a fringe show looked a dead cert for a West End transfer it is this one… by turns funny, informative and genuinely touching. The writer also has some highly effective theatrical tricks up her sleeve that add to both the depth and wit of the proceedings… the two male actors, the excellent Neet Mohan and Jeff Rawle, wittily play a vast number of supporting roles… Indhu Rubasingham directs a superbly fluent and entertaining production with outstanding performances… Fenella Woolgar brilliantly captures the honeyed voice and terrifying certainty of the younger Mrs Thatcher, while Stella Gonet proves genuinely moving as the older woman, suddenly vulnerable and forced to confront defeat at the hands of her own colleagues. This is a delightfully comic play, but it is also is also blessed with emotional depth and human sympathy.
…the result, if occasionally overstretched, provides a very funny portrait of a relationship between monarch and prime minister that clearly wasn't made in heaven. Buffini's brightest idea is to double the central roles… Buffini's device gives the whole evening a buoyant, meta-theatrical playfulness… Marion Bailey is quietly hilarious as the older Q… Fenella Woolgar as Mags and Stella Gonet as T also join the long list of expert Thatcher impersonators… Neet Mohan and Jeff Rawle play the plethora of male characters in a production by Indhu Rubasingham that is perfectly pitched between the comic and the serious. The play has odd duff moments, especially in the scenes involving the broadly caricatured Reagans. It offers, however, a fascinating fictional portrait of two women who had much in common…
…There are two of each: Marion Bailey is the Queen at her present age, Stella Gonet an elderly Thatcher; their 1980s selves are Clare Holman and Fenella Woolgar… All are unnervingly good in appearance and especially movement. It is very funny. But the comedy does not rely only on them, but also on two male actors, Jeff Rawle and Neet Mohan, supposedly press-ganged into playing 17 other parts from Kaunda to Ronald Reagan and Gerry Adams. Wonderful jokes arise from this… This larkiness and deliberate artificiality stop it being mere satire… Pure theatre, doing something only theatre can. It should, as Maggie would say, go On and On.