Opening for a second West End season just hours after James Murdoch axed the News of the World, there was always the danger that Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn’s ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ might seem like a nostalgic trifle.
In fact, the duo’s adaptation of their much-loved TV series is surprisingly robust: after all, politicians don’t change, and if tastes in comedy do, then there’s a pugnacious bleakness to Humphrey and Hacker’s latest adventure that brings the show’s worldview into line with ‘The Thick of It’ et al.
Indeed, the story – which sees Richard McCabe’s PM Jim Hacker attempting to procure an underage girl for a pederast foreign dignitary – may make fans of the more genteel sitcom a little queasy.
But if the introduction of harder-edged humour and a present-day setting is understandable, not enough has been done to update this script since it was written. Its preoccupations – a BBC in crisis, an internally unpopular PM – feel very 2009; it would probably have worked better as either an ’80s period piece or with some topical updates.
Still, the wordplay gleams, there are some fine one-liners, and Simon Williams is magnificent as filibustering mandarin Sir Humphrey Appleby.
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Fine, vital performances by the cast, but the script just didn't sparkle with the same wit as shown in the past. Both Hacker and Sir Humphrey were brought alive by the brilliant skills of Richard McCabe and Simon Williams, but could have achieved excellence with relatively small effort from the scriptwriters, particularly bearing in mind the masses of available material, such as government cuts, Egypt, Tunisia, Murdock etc. Still entertaining, but what an opportunity missed from such respected pens as Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn.