Yes, Prime Minister
A new comedy by
Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn
Reviewed by Christine Charlesworth
At Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
from 7-16 February 2013
Starring Crispin Redman, Michael Matus,
Michael Fenton Stevens and Indra Ove.
On Monday 11 February I went to see ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford. Having been a fan of the popular television series in the 1980’s I was interested to see what Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn had done to make their production suitable for the stage and bring it up to date with today’s politics.
As all the action takes place at Chequers, the country residence of the Prime Minister, the set remained the same throughout and a very believable country-house atmosphere was produced by the use of wood panelling to the walls, comfortable leather seating and a raised area with large desk and a book-lined wall. The opposite wall was filled with a bank of framed photographs of previous prime ministers. A large leaded and stained glass window filled the rear half of the raised area and this, with a view of a tree in autumn gave the set added depth, as did the large gothic door to the corridor. My only criticism was the very visible brass screws in the steps leading up to the raised study area as these shone unnecessarily in the stage lights detracting from the otherwise perfectly believable set.
The action takes place over one weekend of escalating crisis and covers everything from Global Financial Crisis, rising Oil prices, minority governments , illegal immigrants, global warming and prostitution together with the immediacy of the media network and the constant use of mobile ‘phones.
Crispin Redman as Sir Humphrey sometimes had an echo of his television counterpart, but his superb ability to reel off non-stop, wonderfully long, complicated soliloquies, seemingly in one breath, often brought the audience to spontaneous applause and laughter.
Bernard, played by Michael Matus, was in fact very believable as the old-school moralist, often putting his foot in it, getting things wrong and always worrying that everything should be done correctly.
The Prime Minister, played by Michael Fenton Stevens did bring an element of farce to the production, which was possibly understandable given the difference of portraying the characters on stage as opposed to the television. By the second half he has reached manic levels, as everything seems to spiral out of control, with such sharp shrieks that it is a wonder that he does not suffer with throat problems.
The Special Policy Advisor, played by the elegant Indra Ove, was superbly efficient and her calming influence was needed on many occasions during the escalating potential disasters.
During the second half there is a wonderfully well-timed thunder storm which had many members of the audience leaping out of their seats and the rain, pouring down outside the large window, added greatly to the effect.
The use of a television crew with live cameras showing the main characters on large screens in many areas of the theatre was an excellent touch.
Farce it may be, but it is a mad world that we all recognise. A very enjoyable production.
Tickets from £15
For more information or to book tickets online click here.