Review: Handbagged by Moira Buffini, at the Tricycle Theatre

handbagged posterYou know how it is, you wait ages for one and two come along at the same time. After Peter Morgan’s The Audience, centered around the weekly meetings of the Queen with the prime minister in office, a second play, Handbagged by Moira Buffini staged at the Tricycle theatre, talks about the relationship between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher. If The Audience is the blockbuster version (West End staging, Helen Mirren as the Queen), Handbagged is the indie alternative version. And for all its weaknesses, and there are some, it has the indie spirit and bold ambition to match it.

The premise is simple: the play tells the story of Margaret Thatcher’s time in power through her meetings with the Queen. We start with the first meeting, we finish with the last. The simplicity of the approach is deceptive: Continue reading

Review: Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic

Adrian Scarborough as George Tesman and Sheridan Smith as Hedda Gabler. Photo Johan Persson

Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic, with Sheridan Smith in the title role, was always destined to be a much talked production: a successful star in a famous and demanding role is catnip for the media: I expect that, come Thursday morning, the headline “Is Sheridan Smith’s Hedda a hit?” will show up in the papers – hopefully in the front page. But theatre isn’t meant to be a test, and without a hint of nervousness or acknowledging the expectations, this production, directed with huge confidence by Anna Mackmin, bypasses the media hype and does what great theatre should do: it’s thrilling, visceral and fresh.

I ‘ll start with the set (designed by Lez Brotherston), partly because it’s the first thing we see: multiple glass panels and huge windows, they create depth but also give out a bottomless feeling, like if someone could fall into this world and never manage to come up for air. First scene, at night, Hedda silently stalks the house like a ghost and admittedly, this made me a bit nervous: I am not a big fan of additional scenes bolted at the beginning of a play, seemingly for the star to appear first. But soon it became clear I had nothing to be nervous about: the production, as well as beautiful to look at (the costumes alone are a marvel), brings this world alive and makes you look at it with fresh eyes. Continue reading