Claire Cox, Kika Markham, Stella Gonet, Heather Craney
in Handbagged, part of Women, Power and Politics
(© Bridget Jones)
Claire Cox, Kika Markham, Stella Gonet, Heather Craney
in Handbagged, part of Women, Power and Politics
(© Bridget Jones)
Women, Power and Politics, a group of short plays about the history and current role of women in politics in Great Britain, has officially opened at the Tricycle Theatre. Directed by Indhu Rubasingham, the production will run through July 17.

The series has two parts: Then, which examines the historical aspects of women and politics, and Now, which takes a more contemporary focus. The playwrights who have contributed to the series include Bola Agbaje, Moira Buffini, Zinnie Harris, Sam Holcroft, Marie Jones, Lucy Kirkwood, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Sue Townsend, and Joy Wilkinson.

The company features Simon Chandler, Oliver Chris, Claire Cox, Heather Cranley, Niamh Cusack, Stella Gonet, John Hollingworth, Amy Loughton, Tom Mannion, Kika Markham, Lara Rossi, and Felix Scott.

The critics have generally agreed that there is an unevenness to the nine plays that are part of the series, and simultaneously found almost unanimous praise for two works: Moira Buffini's Handbagged and Zinnie Harris' The Panel.

Among the reviews are:

Daily Telegraph
Women, Power and Politics at the Tricycle Theatre, review
"It may seem mean-minded to point out that, in five hours, there are only two truly outstanding playlets - Moira Buffini's Handbagged and Zinnie Harris' The Panel. This would be a stronger proposition as one compact evening rather than something that either requires you to pitch up two nights on the trot, or give up most of your Saturday. Yet despite individual deficiencies, it's still greater than the sum of its parts, and the efforts of the ensemble glue it together nicely."

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"Now (part two) further invites us to wonder how we got from the indomitability of Thatcher and her headstrong contemporaries to a post-feminist, pragmatic mindset that's willing to smile at the cameras and go with the flow when it comes to trading on appearances. The writing is generally sketchier, though seldom less than interesting."

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"In general, it's hard to praise the efforts of the 12-strong multi-tasking company too highly, and there's terrific work from the younger actresses too, especially Claire Cox, Lara Rossi and Heather Craney. What's additionally impressive, from a male perspective, is that the writing doesn't resort to vengeful fictions of men being castrated or shrilly castigated for their patriarchal ways. It makes its points while interrogating its assumptions."

Financial Times
Women, Power and Politics, Tricycle Theatre, London
"Women, Power and Politics is enterprising, audacious and thought-provoking - and timely, given the gender imbalance in the new British cabinet. The fact that it doesn't come to one conclusion or drive along a single path is refreshing and fits the complexity of the subject, as does the wide array of styles, issues and approaches. What holds the project back, though, is that the quality of the writing is variable: some dramas are very good indeed, others much more shaky."

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"Best of all though is Moira Buffini's Handbagged, a surreal comic look at the tense relationship between Margaret Thatcher and the Queen. Buffini plays fast and loose with the facts - "this is all offensive, ill-researched conjecture" remarks the Queen - but seems to light on some pretty thorny truths."

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"The plays are nearly all directed by Rubasingham, who deftly juggles tone and pace, and are delivered by a fine, versatile cast. And they are spliced together with fascinating verbatim accounts collected by Gillian Slovo from female politicians. Shirley Williams' testimony in a sense sums the evening up, as she registers her astonishment at visiting the ladies' in the House of Commons and finding a chintz settee and an ironing board."

The Guardian
Women, Power and Politics
"If the plays that make up Now are less effective, it is because the writing is slacker and there is a prevailing sense that there has been insufficient progress; a point eloquently made by Gillian Slovo's testimonies from politicians. The notion that women are still under male power structures emerges vividly from Zinnie Harris's The Panel...Directed, like all the plays, by Indhu Rubasingham, the piece confirms that the path to sexual equality is strewn with pricks."

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"Buffini's work, hilarious and moving, dominates this typically ambitious Tricycle project. She cleverly splits her duelling protagonists into their older and younger selves. Mags and Liz have a spectacular fallout in the 80s. ... Performed by Stella Gonet and Kika Markham as the senior Mrs T and the Queen, and Claire Cox and Heather Craney as their younger selves, Buffini's piece raises serious questions about that balance of power."

The Independent
Women, Power and Politics, Tricycle Theatre, London
"The result brims with good-humoured vigour but the pieces themselves are decidedly uneven. The Great Game sustained its length by taking you into largely uncharted territory. The plays here occasionally show the strain of trying to put a fresh spin on familiar material. Some feel like 10-minute sketches over-extended to half an hour; others struggle to cram a full-length drama into the confines of a brief one-acter."

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"The piece that fits its space best is Zinnie Harris's The Panel, a mordantly funny look at the pompous, variously prejudiced deliberations of an all-male selection committee who are tasked to choose a manager from a women-only short list."

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"In Sam Holcroft's bracingly bizarre Pink, a female Prime Minister whose husband has been caught buying sex toys from a porn website tries to blackmail its self-made magnate. For a woman, we gather, the political is more prone to be dogged by the personal."

Whatsonstage
Women, Power & Politics
"Well, it's a bumpy ride, but well worth the effort. And instead of last year's 12 plays, there are only nine, all written by women, and given on two bills, Then and Now."

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"And [the plays] are backed up superbly by a very fine ensemble of actors, notably in this first programme, Niamh Cusack as the weaver and Queen Bess, and Simon Chandler as a devastatingly tactful Buckingham Palace PR. The second programme of five plays is just as lively and no less surprising."

For further information, visit: www.tricycle.co.uk.