Handbag is an angry, satirical, penetrating play about parenthood, which collides a reimagining of events from Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest with the life of a newborn baby in the nineties, the child of a lesbian couple and a gay couple.
The play opens on Mauretta and Suzanne, and David and Tom; the two couples plan to have a child together than will never be abandoned or neglected, as it will have four parents instead of two. But when the baby is born, fear and infidelity creep into their familial fantasy. Ravenhill introduces Lorraine, whose consumer habits are being intimately studied by Suzanne, and Phil, a young man whom David pays for sex.
Running alongside this narrative is the spoof story of Agatha, Miss Prism and the Moncrieff family – names recognisable from Wilde’s classic, but with new and distressing instances of child abuse. Inevitably, the consequences for the child at the centre of this nexus of neglect, voyeurism, sexual transactions and sexualised Teletubbies are shocking and disturbing.
Handbag was first performed at the Lyric Hammersmith Studio, London, in 1998.