To prolong the life of a favourite TV series by bringing it to the stage can be risky. The theatre is littered with the corpses of sitcoms that have been cruelly exposed taken beyond a half hour episode.
For this stage production of Yes, Prime Minister - the original authors Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn have created a new plot set over a weekend at Chequers in which the government can secure a loan of trillions of pounds in exchange for agreeing the laying of an oil pipeline – the route of which is so ludicrous it can only be for real! Of course, the loan comes at a cost and the morally dubious condition the Foreign Minister asks is at the centre of the play.
The discussion which ensues is where the play takes on a darker edge but unfortunately the production sags – the humour is in shorter supply and is not replaced by some thought-provoking substance although the Special Advisor’s comment "better that one young girl gets screwed than the whole economy" does send the audience to its interval drinks with something to think about.
Happily the momentum soon gets back on track and the resolving of the situation reminds us of the wheeler-dealing of the ‘Minister’ we know and love and the final scene of the BBC live filming is a highlight of the whole show.
Simon Williams brings his usual suavity to Sir Humphrey and his verbal dexterity earned him a couple of well deserved rounds of applause while Richard McCabe is an extremely funny Jim Hacker especially when we got the chance to see in close-up his ‘appeal to the nation’.
As Bernard Woolley, Chris Larkin extracted much humour caught in the middle of the mayhem and Charlotte Lucas is a ruthlessly efficient Special Advisor that no prime minister would dare ask to "Calm down dear."
Yes, Prime Minister may not be an outright winner as it it mixes elements we know and love with mentions of blackberry phones but essentially but there is much wit to enjoy, the first and last scenes are pure pleasure, the casual dressing down is a delightful moment and I didn’t know a thunder storm could be so funny!
- Richard Woodward