Faced with a country on the brink of financial collapse, the only light at the end of Jim Hacker’s (Richard McCabe) tunnel is a considerably suspect potential deal with the Foreign Minister of Kumranistan involving the zigzagging of an oil pipeline through the entire of Europe. With the help of his close advisors, Hacker is forced to consider the possibility of his country falling further into crisis if he is unwilling to compromise his principles for the powerful (yet morally dubious) Foreign Minister’s ‘personal’ requests concerning sex with an underage girl. In true whirlwind style, Hacker’s problems seem to multiply by the minute as the BBC and an illegal immigrant cook seem hell-bent on exposing his blunders to the nation.
Following a sell-out initial season at Chichester Festival in 2010, Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn bring their Yes, Prime Minister to Richmond. However, the trials of Prime Minister Jim Hacker and his furtive Cabinet Secretary Humphrey (Simon Williams) are catapulted into the current political state of the twenty-first century and the pair find themselves battling with sex scandal whilst simultaneously trying to stay afloat amidst the financial deterioration of the country. With the recession triggering an unfortunately too-well known recognition, Jay and Lynn cleverly make the content of their stage-adaptation farce (the pair were the original writers of the 1980’s TV series) readily accessible to audience members alike
Uttering incessant political faux-pas, Richard McCabe creates a completely likeable, if not totally hopeless character of Jim Hacker – his wonderfully illustrative facial expressions sharing the (often troubled) PM’s thoughts before the dialogue even escapes his lips. Watching the floundering Hacker become increasingly more agitated as the mounting problems begin to bury him it’s difficult, nay, impossible not to sympathise as he buries his head in pillows, hides under desks and even resorts to prayer – even if it is through laughter. Equally, Simon William’s portrayal of the manipulative windbag Sir Humphrey Appleby is superb with his excellent delivery of his numerous convoluted speeches (which are reeled off at an astonishing speed and with faultless accuracy) receiving regular rounds of applause in their own right. Chris Larkin as the loyal but morally troubled Bernard and Charlotte Lucas as Claire Sutton also make use of their punchy quips – and that’s really where the magic of this production lies: in its humour.
To describe the script as being “peppered” with comic lines would be equivalent to describing the Himalayans as “speckled” with snow. The script oozes one-liner after one-liner, yet as with all quick paced comedies, the key lies in the delivery, something that all of the principle characters make exquisite use of. There are numerous wonderful moments where the extreme terror of the clearly lost Prime Minister are laid bare – at one particular moment, McCabe exclaims with sudden clarity how he “MUST do something!” before glancing nervously at his advisors and falling further into a state of uncertainty.
Completely ridiculous but utterly accessible – Yes, Prime Minister allows audience members to laugh out loud at a staged mania which is actually all too easily recognisable as the one in which we live.
Yes Prime Minister is playing at the Richmond Theatre until the 18th June. For more information and tickets, see the website here.