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Yes, Prime Minister - Darlington Civic Theatre

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 10th May 2012 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge


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YES, PRIME MINISTER – DARLINGTON CIVIC THEATRE

The stage version of the much loved BBC hit TV series, ‘Yes, Prime Minister is now touring in a hilarious, award winning new version written specifically for the theatre by original writers Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. Following a fantastic season in the West End and at the Chichester Festival Theatre, Jim Hacker (Graham Seed) and Sir Humphrey Appleby (Michael Simkins) have arrived at Darlington on the last stop of the production’s tour and they face a country in financial meltdown.

Heading the coalition government, the PM is staring disaster in the face. The country is on the brink of economic crisis and there is just one grain of hope – a morally dubious deal with the Foreign Minister of Kumranistan - but great institutions have a way of riding punches and bouncing back unscathed – will it prove so for Jim Hacker and his team of close advisors?

Much like its original television counterpart, this stage version takes a satirical sideswipe at what goes on behind closed doors in the corridors of power at Chequers. A sumptuous set, designed by Simon Higlett, provides the backdrop for an evening of biting wit and topical humour. Yet, although the decision to contemporise the piece is, on one hand, its greatest strength, on the other, it is the biggest flaw of the piece.

Rather than subtly integrating modern inventions and issues, including the BlackBerry and the global warming debate, they are almost introduced with cue-cards. Add to that constant references to politicised pop stars, such as Bob Geldof, Bono and Annie Lennox, phone-hacking fiascos and Bill Clinton’s extra-marital activities with Monica Lewinski, and the production begins to feel that it has been written in much the same way as a housewife writes a shopping list.

This is a real shame as it detracts from the consummate performances given by a cohesive company of actors. Graham Seed’s Jim Hacker is brimming with Blairisms and his characterisation is compelling. Michael Simkins, as Sir Humphrey, is understatedly smug and Laura Murray is suitably abrasive as the Special Adviser (or SPAD if you prefer the Whitehall jargon). Supporting roles are delivered with aplomb by Sam Dastor, Tony Boncza, Simon Holmes, Angus King and Sarah Baxendale.

Jonathan Lynn’s direction sometimes allows the pace to flag and, inevitably, the attention begins to wander. I couldn’t help feeling that if the direction had been slightly sharper and a couple of lengthy monologues had been trimmed, then we might have been bestowed with a production that did something more than just walk in the shadow of its televisual predecessor.

Ian Cain.

Runs until Saturday 12 May, 2012 

 

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