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Handbagged

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Freedom and democracy aren't words usually associated with the late Margaret Thatcher, the former UK Prime Minister whose ideology-driven decade in office set the tone of things to come. Those are the exact words, however, which open Moira Buffini's play, which puts Thatcher on stage alongside the Queen as a cut-glass double act showing off the edited highlights of Thatcher's time in office between 1979 and 1990.

This makes for quite a history lesson as Buffini imagines a series of meetings between the pair, simply known here as Q and T. As older versions of the two women watch over these formal and frosty exchanges between their younger selves, a world of IRA bombings, royal weddings and the Falklands War is laid bare as Q becomes a quietly radical conscience of the nation.

All of this is delivered in Indhu Rubasingham's production, originally seen at the Tricycle Theatre in London prior to this commercial tour, in a consciously meta-theatrical manner. Q and T have even hired a couple of actors to play all the bit parts in what T clearly presumes will be a hagiographical homage to her perceived greatness. The actors have other ideas, however, so inbetween Spitting Image style impressions of Neil Kinnock, Ronald Reagan, Rupert Murdoch and co, the 1984 miners strike and the poll tax that brought about Thatcher's downfall fill in the triumphalist gaps.

Kate Fahy  and Sanchia McCormack play their respective versions of Thatcher with a pitch-perfect haughtiness matched by Susie Blake and Emma Handy's takes on her majesty. Of course, Thatcher has the last word, and yes, it is as negative as much else during her inglorious reign.

The Herald, November 4th 2015

ends

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