She has fond memories of it, so every so often I like to let triomakesmehot
know how the Gielgud Theatre is getting on:
As you can see, it's still there.
30 years after the original Yes, Minister
debuted on TV, the original writers have produced this topical(ish) stage version (the production originally played in Chichester to coincide with the election.) It's a new story but the familiar characters are the same: David Haig is now PM Jim Hacker, Henry Goodman the sly Civil Servant Sir Humphrey, and stuck in the middle is Jonathan Slinger's nice-but-dim Bernard. In keeping with changes made to the Civil Service by Thatcher and Blair, Sir Humphrey isn't quite
as able to wrap Jim around his finger as he was in the eighties, and the latter has a new aide, the excellent Emily Joyce as unflappable Special Policy Advisor Claire. So instead the play features a lot more of a back-and-forth between the two men, and a constant game of bargaining and not-particularly-veiled threats. The actors wisely avoid impressions of their predecessors and give their own performances in the roles - Haig is of course pretty much made to be flustered, and Goodman is fine, although there's something disappointingly controlled about how he delivers Humprey's famous neverending sentences (I always felt there was a sense of near-panic to how Nigel Hawthorne delivered them, as if Humphrey's favourite diversionary tactic might actually derail him as well.)
The plot itself is of talks being held at Chequers with a diplomat from a small Middle Eastern country which could do Europe a pretty valuable oil deal - so long as they keep him happy by providing an underage hooker. But really the point is to throw in as many complications as possible in order to raise the panic level on stage in the second act. The biggest laughs come from the snappy, cynical one-liners, but considering the subject matter it's not that rich in topical humour, despite some attempts to mine more recent events. It feels as if there was a lot of rewriting going on with regard to this, and both cjg1
and I noticed discrepancies about just how long Hacker has been PM (early on there's references to the instability of a coalition government and fears that they might have to call another election within months of the last one; but later there's mentions of Hacker having been in office for at least 3 or 4 years.) Although the first act is still entertaining, funnily enough the second, when these attempts at topicality are mostly dropped, is a lot better, as the story can concentrate on drawing together the elements of a farce. Yes, Prime Minister
is a reasonably successful attempt to bring a very '80s comedy into the 21st century, and functions perfectly as a fun romp, even if it doesn't really have anything new to say.Yes, Prime Minister
by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn is booking until the 15th of January at the Gielgud Theatre.