Fans of the 1980s
television series Yes, Prime Minister won’t be
disappointed by this modern incarnation of the hit show on the stage.
Set in the Prime Minister’s private office in Chequers, the play
follows Jim Hacker, the amiable but slightly dim Prime Minister, and
his scheming Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey as they try to secure a
deal to get Europe out of debt and England into the Euro.
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.