Yes, Prime Minister (Apollo Theatre)

Posted on July 20, 2011

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The play of Antony Jay & Jonathan Lynn‘s hit TV series ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ has returned to the West End after a run that closed as the start of this year. I love ‘Yes, Prime Minister‘ the TV series, one of the finest pieces of British comedy ever produced – I love men who are cunning linguists. So when I had an expectedly free Wednesday, and some left over Theatre Tokens to spend, I thought, what better way to do it than spend the afternoon in the arms of an old lover.

“rather like having a one night stand with an old paramour.”

As this play has already had two runs (Chicester & the original West End run) I won’t recite the plot (not that I ever do that anyway), but seeing this contemporised version is rather like having a one night stand with an old paramour. It’s instantly familiar, all the old favourite tricks are there, but there are one or two fresh ones thrown in to keep you on your toes, so to speak.

On the flip side however, your lover is also a little older, and a little slow to, well, rise to the occasion.

So what have we got here? Well the first act simply drags. The script is there and is simply brilliant, but the performances and direction seem to be taking some time to warm up. It’s also disconcerting to be constantly imagining how Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne & Derek Fowlds would have delivered the lines. And for the first act, the actors are living in the shadows of their predecessors.

The second act however is terrifically paced. This could simply be that by this point I was accepting the actors in their roles, rather than comparing them, or just that the second act is actually just better!

The script is a real cracker. A few ‘News of the World’ jokes went down especially well, and the moral ambiguities seem to be striking far closer to the bone than the original series did.

On the whole I do not think the current cast truly manage to make these characters their own. Sir Humphrey’s elongated speeches didn’t trip off the tongue as lightly, neither did Bernard’s prevarications.  But they do manage to entertain.

In the end, I just want to see Jay & Lynn bring this series back to TV and have a field day with the current state of politics in the UK!

Rating: Give it one for the road, you know what you’re getting and it’s good stuff.

Posted in: Play