In this lingering production of Yes, Prime Minister, Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn have made modest attempts to modernise this treasured sitcom. From the start the play is full of references that are familiar to today’s audiences. It follows Jim Hacker and Humphrey Appleby as they struggle to deal with the recession, oil, illegal immigrants, sex trafficking, global warming, the EU and the BBC.
However, despite these easy targets, the dialogue lacks the wit that is cherished in the original TV series, and a lot of the first act received nothing but titters. The production feels as though it is going through the motions, as the writers tick off each item on a list of current issues. It is only by the second half that the play gradually turns into a farce. It does generate more laughter, but Yes, Prime Minister does become absurd.
What does work is the relationship between Jim Hacker and Humphrey Appleby who are played, though with some exaggeration, by Michael Fenton Stevens and Crispin Redman. It is charming to watch the two try and get the better of each other. Fenton Stevens is an idealistic but pompous and incapable Hacker. Redman meanwhile is the pragmatic and diligent, but slippery Humphrey who gets a round of applause every time he produces a long-winded monologue. Elsewhere, Michael Matus plays a moralistic but simple minded Bernard Woolley, whilst Indra Ove is an astute adversary to Humphrey as Hacker’s policy advisor, Claire Sutton.
The set is nicely detailed, though the sound effects are a bit loud.
Altogether, whilst making every reference to the current political climate, the production lacks the ‘gold standard’ of the original TV series. By the end it has descended into farce which audiences may or may not finding entertaining.