No, Prime Minister
I went to the theatre last night with former prime ministerial aspirant and former Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello. Well, I actually didn’t go with him. He sat in front of me at the Comedy Theatre for the Opening Night of Yes, Prime Minister. The stage version of the long-running and highly entertaining British TV series which started out in 1982 as Yes, Minister.
I was thrilled that Costello was there, right in front of me, because few people would know better than he about the machinations of the public service and the back-stabbing and plotting within Cabinet and a Government’s fractious relationship with the media. All of which were grist for the mill of the TV show writers, Anthony Jay and Jonathon Lynn.
I figured that noting the spots where Costello guffawed or used his famous smirk would be a bonus. Didn’t laugh that much.
The writers have brought Yes, Prime Minister forward 25 years and in 2012 they have a massive series of new crises for an inept Rt. Hon. Jim Hacker to handle while being used as a puppet by the suave, manipulative Sir Humphrey Appleby. There’s the GFC, oil prices, a minority government, leadership plots, illegal immigrants and global warming. The bastards in the media and the 24-hour news cycle with its growing armada of spin doctors. Enough jokes there pertinent to our current situation. And the audience got them all.
Sir Humphrey is played wonderfully by Phillip Quast -- last seen in Mary Poppins. He deserves points for memorising long tracts of obfuscating bureaucrat-speak that make even Kevin Rudd sound succinct. He’s good.
Mark Owen-Taylor from All Saints and A Country Practice) plays the hapless Jim Hacker. I don’t know if it were deliberate but at times he seemed to be channelling John Cleese in Fawlty Towers. At other times, in gait and accent, he seemed to morph into the Minister for Funny Walks. And John Lloyd-Fillingham had touches of Baldrick.
I’ve just noticed all the TV references. And that’s the problem with this show. It is a TV show. It doesn’t really make the transformation to the theatre. And the prayer sequence is excruciating.
Still Yes, Minister fans will love it. For me, sadly, it was No, Prime Minister.