FIRST NIGHT REVIEW: Yes, Prime Minister offers a linguistic onslaught of perfectly executed oiliness
- Credit: Archant
JIM is ever the ditherer I remember. Maybe more mendacious this time around but discernible immediately nonetheless by the utter banality of his thoughts, whilst Bernard?
Ah Bernard, dear blessed Bernard. Promoted hopelessly beyond his basic skill sets but in possession of sufficient redeemable features to severely irritate rather than wish for malevolent termination.
And then there’s Sir Humphrey, who combines obsequiousness and superciliousness in equal measure and disarms critics with a breathless, linguistic onslaught of dubious intent but perfectly executed oiliness.
These characters refreshed, modernised and allowed still to govern Britain in 2013 as they first did 30 years ago, remain the thrusting, disarming trio of Yes, Prime Minister, adapted for the stage and which opened for a week’s run on Monday at Cambridge Arts Theatre.
Michael Fenton Stevens is Jim Hacker, British Prime Minister, paranoid, anxious, whisky sodden and by all intents and purposes perfectly useless.
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But Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn have penned these malcontents skilfully and expose not only their foibles – of which there are many- but the ruthless, naked ambition that permeates their waking moments.
Whilst Fenton Stevens is the epitome of a chancer who got lucky, Crispin Redman as top ranking civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby is the antithesis. A long, lingering ascent to the top – with already an eye for future enrichment post retirement- can neither be loathed, pitied, envied nor easily put down. In simple parlance he’s the cat that got the civil service cream. Whilst lower orders such as Bernard (a robust portrayal by Michael Matus) are still learning their craft, one gets the impression that nothing short of a revolution will rock Sir Humphrey’s gilt edged, index linked, final salary pension package.
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Yes, Prime Minister has a plot – topical too- but it is subordinate to the insight we seek as to how politics at the highest level works.
The play is Spitting Image meets Brian Rix – knockabout, biting, satirical and thoroughly enjoyable.
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