HANDBAGGED is not to be confused with The Audience, the Peter Morgan play where The Queen conducted her weekly meeting with assorted Prime Ministers down the years.

Moira Buffini's mischief-making political satire – premiered in September 2013 and now revived in a tripartite co-production – reunites Her Majesty with only one PM, her fellow formidable female leader, Margaret Thatcher (who did of course appear in Morgan's work too).

Handbagged arrives at one of its co-producers, York Theatre Royal, on Wednesday in a production full of distaff distinction: written by Buffini, directed by Jo Newman and designed by Dawn Allsopp, a familiar name to Theatre Royal, Pilot Theatre, Hull Truck and Northern Broadsides audiences.

"Opening the clasp on the antipathy between two giants of the 20th century", Handbagged features not one, but two characterisations of The Queen and Mrs T, as Buffini imagines what might have happened at their weekly meetings when sharing their opposing views of Britain’s role in the world.

Susan Penhaligon plays Q; Caroline Harker, Liz, a younger version of the Queen; Sarah Crowden plays T; Eve Matheson, Mags, the younger Margaret Thatcher.

Crowden is no stranger to the Theatre Royal stage, or at least the Theatre Royal stage before its 2016 refurbishment. "I was there in 1976 and 1977 when Malcolm Taylor was the artistic director, first as an assistant, then as an acting ASM when I did both acting and stage management," recalls Sarah. "So it's been a long gap!"

Indeed so, and now she returns in the role of the most divisive figure in British politics of the 20th century. "Over the years I've been told I'm like her! I don't mind, but it's harder for my family! She was a force of nature, but not a force of good to a lot of people," says Sarah, who describes her own politics as "Tory Socialist – a little bit of both".

"There'll be a mixed reaction, depending on where we're playing. I thought I'd get cheered in Salisbury; heckled by students in York and mocked in Oldham." Let's see what happens next week.

In her characterisation, Sarah picks out certain Thatcher tropes: "The gestures; the tilting of the head to the left; how her voice changed when she was older, especially at the very end, but she still came through as determined as ever," she says.

It is said that actors must at least empathise with the characters they are playing, if not sympathise with them. "You have to find their humanity," Sarah says. "Margaret Thatcher was very fond of her son, Mark, but she was completely focused on being a politician, and husband Denis had to play the role of consort. She was very single-minded, treating her Cabinet like they were children."

The older Queen and Mrs T in Handbagged are more like "Laurel and Hardy figures," suggests Sarah. "They can be lighter, whereas there's a lot of politics for their younger selves. They can comment wryly because it is, after all, satire, and you could also reference Bird and Fortune in the style of comedy.

"They're very much a double act, playing off each other with lots of contradicting going on, reminiscing but being wrong!"

One thing everyone can agree on, even if Margaret Thatcher splits audiences, "they all love The Queen", says Sarah.

By the way, aside from Handbagged, she can be seen in two upcoming episodes of ITV's nostalgic Sunday series The Durrells, playing Melanie, Countess de Torro on Easter Sunday and the following weekend. "She's very different from Mrs Thatcher, but it's still me!" says Sarah.

York Theatre Royal, Wiltshire Creative and Oldham Coliseum present Handbagged, York Theatre Royal, April 24 to May 11, 7.30pm, plus Thursday matinees at 2pm Saturdays, 2.30pm. Box office:

01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Charles Hutchinson