REVIEW: Handbagged, Oldham Coliseum Theatre. Runs until Saturday, June 1

THE five players in this hilarious satire centred on the notoriously fraught relationship between then prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the Queen in the 1980s are milking it for laughs.

A co-production between the Coliseum and Wilshire Creative (Salisbury) and York Theatre Royal the team on stage and behind the scenes, superbly directed by Jo Newman, have arrived in Oldham with their performances well polished and the nuggets in playwright Moira Buffini’s script delivered with perfect timing.

Of course, there’s a serious message behind Buffini’s play, who has used the potent weapon of satire to illustrate what is now historically recognised as one of the most transitional but also divisive periods in British political history.

There’s no doubt where Buffini’s sympathies lie, describing in the programme notes how Thatcheer was “the monster of my youth”.

It resonates today as the UK – similarly divided politically over Brexit - flagellates itself.

The Thatcher years, which stretched from 1979 to 1990 when she was dumped out of office by her own party, covers the Falklands War in 1982, the Greenham Common peace protest in 1983, one of the most bitter industrial disputes ever in the miners strike in 1984 all the way through to her plan to introduce the poll tax, the issue which finally sealed her fate.

Star of stage and small screen Susan Penhaligon, as the older Queen, was particularly outstanding, dropping in her hand grenade one-liners with the precision of the experienced actor that she is.

Sarah Crowden set the tone and the pace of the piece with and caricature of the older Mrs T highly evocative of the Iron Lady.

Caroline Harker as the young Queen and Alice Selwyn as the younger Margaret dovetail with their older counterparts in a superbly choreographed way.

I thought the two actors playing multiple roles, Jahvel Hall and Andy Secombe, also did an amazing job.

Hall even ventured into drag for a hilarious impersonation of then US First Lady Nancy Reagan, while Secombe mimicked Michael Heseltine, Arthur Scargill, Geoffrey Howe, Ronald Reagan, and a magnificent Duke of Edinburgh to name just a few.

I confidently expect this play to get excellent houses during its short run, judging from the response from the audience on the opening night.

Book your seats now – this high quality theatre.