Fringe Box



Review: Yes, Prime Minister – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 12 Feb, 2013
Updated on: 12 Feb, 2013
Crispin Redman (Sir Humphrey) and Michael Fenton-Stevens (Prime Minister Jim Hacker) star in Yes, Prime Minister - Photo by Manuel Harlan

Crispin Redman (Sir Humphrey) and Michael Fenton-Stevens (Prime Minister Jim Hacker) star in Yes, Prime Minister – Photo by Manuel Harlan

Yes, Prime Minister, based on the classic TV comedy, has reinvented itself once again  in this brilliant stage production. The show, beginning its three month tour here in Guildford at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, gives a hilarious insight into the workings of the PM’s office. 

Upon entering the auditorium we are greeted with the Prime Minister, Jim Hacker’s study in Chequers, his country residence. It is a fantastic set, with great detail – almost as if someone has sliced the house down the middle leaving us to peer in, similar to a doll’s house.

Half way through the second act a thunderstorm strikes and water very effectively pounds down the large window accompanied by realistic sound effects of distant rain and thunder. Praise goes to Designer Simon Higlett and his team for such an authentic setting.

Throughout the play we see the PM’s relationship with his Cabinet Secretary, Sir Humphrey and the Principal Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley, as they deal with and attempt to find a solution to a potentially embarrassing  situation.

The production, script and cast are fast paced and equally quick witted, leaving well timed pauses for the audience to fill with laughter and applause – both of which come often.

Jonathan Lynn’s direction is excellent, with good use of space and a lovely touch, using live television screens during the PM’s interview with the BBC, to give an extra dimension and authenticate the action in the mind’s eye of the audience. Having the two cameras “filming” and “broadcasting” live on stage means Lynn has had to cleverly set them so no sight lines are obscured whilst the action is happening.

Crispin Redman as Sir Humphrey Appleby, Cabinet Secretary, has created a superb character that is totally credible. As an audience we aren’t quite sure what to make of him to begin with and even towards the end, whether he is ever really on the PM’s side.

Redman has some incredibly complicated monologues which he delivers with absolute poise and no hesitation, leaving both the audience and PM stunned at times! Indra Ové develops well as Claire Sutton, Special Policy Advisor but doesn’t seem as relaxed as her colleagues. She could also afford to be more manipulative as the advisor, who really wants the PM to listen to her over his other two right-hand men.

Michael Matus as Bernard Woolley, Principal Private Secretary is just fantastic. He creates a wholly endearing character, who clearly knows right from wrong but also realises that in his position, between the PM and Cabinet Secretary, that he just can’t please everyone. Matus’ gait, facial expressions and posture of this nervous character never falter, even when in the background. He is an absolute pleasure to watch.

Michael Fenton Stevens as Jim Hacker, PM, grows into the role during the performance, not giving too much of the character away during the first act and therefore enabling us to see him become progressively more stressed and hysterical throughout.

The climax of this being him throwing himself under his desk towards the end of the second act. His comic timing, intonation and rhythm during speeches and dialogue are brilliant and his portrayal of his relationships with office colleagues is based on wonderfully astute observation.

For an entirely entertaining evening out and to see just why this production of Yes, Prime Minister is set to be such a success over the next three months, don’t miss it before it moves to Churchill Theatre, Bromley.

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