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Indhu Rubasingham: Handbags, hairspray and sensible shoes

Artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre Indhu Rubasingham is currently directing Moira Buffini's ''Handbagged'' at the Kilburn venue. In this extract from the show's programme, she discusses the growth of the play from its beginnings in 2010

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Indhu Rubasingham took over as artistic director of the Tricycle last year
© Jane Hobson

I first worked with Moira in 2010 when I produced and directed Women, Power and Politics here at the Tricycle. She was the first writer I commissioned in the summer of 2009. She told me she wanted to do something on Margaret Thatcher – you can't begin a conversation about Women and Politics without talking about one of the most powerful women in the 21st century. She bagged that subject.

I remember Moira finally writing it very quickly after having done so much research, reading and the inevitable procrastination that comes with tackling a subject so huge and emotive. It soon developed into a piece about the two most iconic figures in recent history, Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher, and a dramatisation of their possible relationship. What would it have been like? It also looked at the nature of one person inheriting power versus the other earning power and then having it disappear. The result was a short play called Handbagged, which sat alongside eight other new plays. It was a real treat: hugely enjoyable, had an enormous impact and was great fun to work on.

Stella Gonet and Fenella Woolgar in Handbagged
©Tristram Kenton

When I first got the job as artistic director, I talked to Moira again and I told her I would love to work with her here. She suggested a full-length version of Handbagged, as she felt she had only explored the tip of the iceberg in the short 2010 version. I was hugely excited – but then we got cold feet; we heard The Audience was opening – would this be too similar? We put the project on hold. Then in Christmas 2012 we spoke again and I felt it didn't matter – I knew the two plays would be very different. Moira also felt she could not get those women out of her head, so we decided heck, why not? I arranged a desk at the theatre for Moira to come and sit for a few weeks so she could allot uninterrupted time to concentrate on the play… As the time drew near, and after numerous discussions on the development of the full-length piece, Moira was ready to put pen to paper and immerse herself.

Three days before she was due to start, Margaret Thatcher died. The timing of events was extraordinary; while we were researching and re-living her life here in Kilburn, the whole country was also revisiting that history in the run-up to her funeral.

This full-length version of Handbagged has gone on a journey, a very interesting one guided by current events as well as examining our own experiences; we are both "Thatcher children" and undoubtedly, whether knowingly or unknowingly, our own journeys have been hugely influenced by these two women.

Want to know what the critics made of the show? Check out our Review Round-Up here

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