GT Stage

West End Review: Handbagged

Is the lady for turning?

What do the Queen and her Prime Ministers discuss in that weekly meeting? What do they eat? Is there gin? All questions asked, but never answered. The truth to such inquisitions goes to the grave with those Prime Ministers.

Until now! Handbagged takes a shot at exactly what it was the Queen and Maggie Thatcher discussed over all those meetings. With, admittedly, varying degrees of accuracy…

The events are real, and so are the people, but the conversations they have may not be entirely. "Is Her Majesty a socialist?", Thatcher frets. "I don't think she's an actual trot, old love", replies Dennis.

You get double bang for your buck, too, with not one, but two Queens on stage. How many are in the audience, well… Oh make your own jokes. There are also two Thatchers as well. Or three, if you count Dennis. Don't say we didn't warn you.

What Handbagged doesn't have is Helen Mirren. And that's not a problem, because one thing it isn't is a low-rent version of The Audience. Instead it's a light-hearted, comic tale of what this famous pairing's time could have been like. The conversations are at times farcical. The Queen is more parody than parity. And there's a man dressed as a woman (our favourite).

At times it feels like a sketch show that's gone on for too long. It could probably be done in much less time, which Thatcher repeatedly points out – bless her. It also isn't nearly as high-brow as a show of this description might sound; it sometimes feels like a CBBC guide to the 80s. But it is brilliantly funny at moments.

Handbagged makes for a delightfully amusing night out. Get your tickets at the Handbagged website.

GT gives it: 4/5

Words Benjamin Butterworth

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