Stage production of Yes, Prime Minister a great reproduction of the classic television show

jpse-22-03-13-theatre-review
jpse-22-03-13-theatre-review

Almost 30 years since Yes, Prime Minister first hit our airwaves the format for this satirical show is still as cutting and pin-sharp as ever - still giving its audience an insight into the hapless world of politics.

The writers of that show are still rolling out the jokes which made that show such a hit in the 1980 and which spawned this touring production which stopped off at the Theatre Royal Brighton for six days.

As a fan of the original shows it was with great excitement I took my seat, surrounded by a mixed crowd of what appeared to be retired civil servants.

The odd joke from the TV shows was rolled out, as you might expect with Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn still at the typewriter, but the script was brought up to date with gags about the collapsing euro, Blackberrys and a reference to the horse meat scandal, although this felt rather forced.

The cast seemed to take a little bit of warming up - this being the first night in town - but once they were going the characters so beloved by people like Lady Thatcher were brought to life in magnificent style.

The character of Sir Humphrey Appleby (head of the Civil Service) was brilliantly played by Crispin Redman, who mimicked the mannerisms from the TV series, along with the trademark pitch-perfect monologues. All of which were lapped up my the receptive audience.

Then there was Prime Minister Jim Hacker, played by Michael Fenton Stevens. Although a great performance I felt his portrayal of the sometimes hapless, sometimes erudite head of the country was more slapstick than it needed to be at times.

Completing the dysfunctional triumvirate was Michael Matus, who played the character of the bumbling principal private secretary Bernard Woolley.

The show is based in Chequers - the countryside retreat of the PM. The plot revolves around a solution to Europe’s financial woes by the oil rich country of “Kumranistan” by way of a loan of trillions of dollars - which leads to a cat-and-mouse game of wits between Hacker and Sir Humphrey in true Yes, Prime Minister style.

It quickly turns out, however, that the deal hinges on the characters, including Claire Sutton, the PM’s special policy advisor (played by Indra Ove) procuring three prostitutes for the “Kumranistan” representative.

This brings up a series of problems, finishing with a leak to the newspapers and then the incarceration of the PM’s chef and her daughter on terrorism charges.

Along the way we have Hacker and Sir Humphrey joining forces to connive, cajole and strike a deal with the director-general of the BBC, Jeremy Burnham (played by Tony Boncza). This meeting leads to Hacker fumbling his way through a ‘live’ interview with a Jeremy Paxman style television host (Simon Chester, played by Jonathan Kemp).

Needles to say the whole thing conveys a picture of the current political climate, although sometimes that picture was painted with broad brush strokes.

As a fan of the television show, did I enjoy it this performance?

Yes, Prime Minister.