Review: Yes Prime Minister - bang up to date but stayed true to its roots

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Theatre Royal Brighton, by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, February 3-12.

THE REVIVAL of Yes Prime Minister on stage stayed true to the genius BBC comedy of the 1980s and at the same time brought it bang up to date for the 21st century.

There’s a very dark plot line which involved a moral dilemma where they must either procure an underage prostitute for a foreign dignitary or risk losing billions on an oil deal.

It’s a story which would be risqué even for the Thick Of It and it certainly has you watching, eyes wide open and jaw agape.

And of course they were all using Blackberries and there was a flat screen television in the PM’s office.

The play, created by the TV show’s original writers, also offered up all the best jokes from the TV series and today in 2011 they were still deliciously funny.

For fans of the show, principal private secretary Bernard Woolley (Chris Larkin) confused plebiscite PM Jim Hacker (Richard McCabe) with Latin sayings, including the famous line from Virgil’s Aeneid: ‘Timeo danaos et dona ferentes (I fear Greeks, even when they come bearing gifts) and Humphrey called his female nemesis and Jim’s political advisor ‘dear lady’ in a bid to undermine her.

There were some classic lines from cabinet secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby (Simon Williams), who delivered the complex syntax and tortuous vocabulary with great skill and flair, with only the occasional stumble.

Amazing considering how difficult those lines must be to do live - I’m talking of course about when Jim asks Humphrey for a straight answer and Humphrey replies with a five minute monologue, which doesn’t answer any questions at all, but uses phrases like: broadly speaking, in the fullness of time and when the moment is ripe, all in a bid to stop the PM from doing anything he disagrees with.

Bernard also nit picks about people using mixed metaphors, which was always a favourite of mine in the show.

And Jim as the Prime Minister is bullish, unable to make any of his own decisions, but getting much better at learning how to pull the strings of his puppet master Humphrey.

Oh and he does a great Winston Churchill impression too when he’s trying to sound statesman-like.

The set looked stunning and the action was confined to the PM’s office, which serves to ramp up the tension.

The TV show of course was usually set in the PM’s office, with the occasional foray elsewhere so it translates wonderfully to the stage.

In all, the performances from Bernard, Jim and Humphrey, were very close to the originals and an absolute delight.

Best moment in the play to look out for was Humphrey coming through the door, lit from behind in a messianic pose at Jim’s darkest hour - it was menacing and absolutely hilarious.

Yes Prime Minister is a must for fans of the show and fans of political satire everywhere.

It was sharp, with several plot lines cleverly woven together and laced with black comedy.