This witty play asks why the relationship between the Queen and Mrs Thatcher was so famously frostyby Serena Kutchinsky / April 13, 2014 / Leave a comment
Much has been written about Margret Thatcher since she died. There have been films, biographies, documentaries and theatrical tributes. But none have managed to bring British politics’ most famous battleaxe back to life in quite such sparkling form as Moira Buffini’s witty and watchable play which has just transferred to the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre.
The premise is both simple and engaging—what did Mrs Thatcher and the Queen discuss in their weekly meetings which spanned an 11 year period from 1979 to 1990? On the surface Her Madge and Her Majesty had little in common, one was a grocer’s daughter who had climbed the greasy pole, the other was born to a life of inherited privilege but, although their expression of it differed, they shared a unique position of power.
Despite the private nature of their conversations (no known records exist), Buffini has successfully fictionalised their uncomfortable relationship. The play hones in on The Sunday Times’ 1986 cover story which reported the Queen’s apparent dismay at Mrs Thatcher’s “uncaring” policies and hard-hearted style of government. Buffini is not the only playwright to be inspired by this female clash of values—Peter Morgan drew on it in his award-winning play The Audience (2013) which starred Helen Mirren.
“When Mrs Thatcher died, my kids asked ‘why does everyone hate that poor old lady,’” says Buffini. “I wanted to tell the truth about why she was such a divisive figure and her relationship with the Queen is a fascinating prism through which to do so. Up until Mrs Thatcher, the Queen’s prime ministers had been significantly older than her. These two women were only six months apart in age and were equals in many ways except that one had to curtsey to the other.”
Buffini’s skill as a dramatist is evidenced in her decision to double-up the lead roles, giving us older and younger versions of the Queen (Lucy Robinson and Marion Bailey) and the Iron Lady (Fenella Wolgar and Stella Gonet) on stage throughout the proceedings. While the younger pair (Liz and Mags) remain constrained by the formality of their roles (and the copious amounts of hairspray used to keep their…