A word of caution; if you are more akin to reading Facebook posts than newspapers, then the majority of the witty word-play may escape you – but if you have more than one subscription to a broadsheet, then you will be absolutely tickled pink with Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn’s double-entendres and tongue-trickery. If the first act is dedicated to Crispin Redman’s Machiavellian Sir Humphrey’s scheming and astoundingly complex monologues, then the second act brings out the sublimely ridiculous in Michael Fenton Stevens’ Jim Hacker. These two opponents are completely evenly matched in their witty sparring and Lynn’s punchy direction has the audiences in stitches, hoots and titters throughout the show.
As the PM’s Principal Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley Michael Matus is jolly good fun and manages to convey a sense of innocence, idiocy and good-natured academia that provides an excellent foil to Sir Humphrey. Seeing him be “casual” was painfully funny and so reminiscent of middle-class men trying to be “down with the kids” by listening to 50 Cent. As the Prime Minister’s special advisor Claire Sutton, Indra Ové is slightly exaggerated and not particularly convincing. Although she has flashes of comic timing, the majority of her dialogue sounds smug and lacking in finesse.
Simon Higlett’s set is warmly inviting without looking too homely and certainly looks like the office of the most important man in the country. The modern domination of the role of the media is emphasised by large television sets suspended above the stage, while more than one bottle of scotch is drunk/ thrown about/ launched at the luxurious furniture. This battle of wits and wills is definitely a must-see for fans of the television series – or indeed anyone who likes their satire witty, but without too ferocious a bite.