25 November 2015

Handbagged at Richmond Theatre made me chuckle

Richmond Theatre seemed to have got their act together with regard to putting on shows that I wanted to see and in telling me about them and as a result I had been there fairly regularly after a long spell of going rarely.

This time I went to see Handbagged, another ex-West End show that I was not interested in enough to see in the West End, and certainly not at West End prices, but was half tempted to see when it was on just up the road and got the final nudge I needed when there was a price promotion. My seat, Dress Circle Row A  Seat 19, was £27.50 which put it in the no-need-to-think-about-it category.

The poster gave away the theme of the play, The Queen v Thatcher, but that was all that I knew about it so, as usual, I had little idea of what to expect. And if I had thought about it I would not have guessed right anyway.

Handbagged told the story of the meetings between The Queen and Thatcher during Thatcher's eleven long years as PM. It was told by The Queen and Thatcher as they were at the end of that period, 1990, who watched younger versions of themselves having those meetings. Two other male actors played all the other roles from Dennis to Kinnock to Howe to Reagan.

It was billed as an all out comedy but the obvious temptation for slapstick and sharp comments was avoided for something possibly closer to the truth that got plenty of humour out of the basic antipathy in the relationship.

It was also more political and global than I expected. The footman interrupted them a few times when their reminisces missed key events like the 1981 riots or the 1984 miners' strike and some of the stories remembered concerned Commonwealth matters, such as the transition to Rhodesia into Zimbabwe in 1979 when Thatcher was new to the job and The Queen had long established relationships with the Commonwealth leaders. The politics and history added substance to a play that could have been flat without them.

It was also played as a play, i.e. they knew they were performing in front of an audience and reacted to us. In one nice and typical moment Thatcher argued that there was no need for an interval only for The Queen to command that there be one and to walk off stage forcing the others to follow her.

The humour came, as it often does, in the relationships between people and it was a natural human humour of little comments and quick responses, nothing like Spitting Image for example. This was chuckling humour and I chuckled.

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