‘Yes, Prime Minister’ was a hilarious series that ran on BBC tv from 1980 to 1982. Yes forty years ago and it still has a 92% audience appreciation factor. The three series were written by English writer, broadcaster and director, Sir Antony Rupert Jay CVO who died 4 yrs. ago aged 86. His co-writer Jonathan Lynn is now 77. Lynn, who was born in the city of Bath, was a stage and film director, producer, writer, and actor. ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ won them three BAFTAs and two Broadcasting Press Guild Awards,
The 3-week season of this richly written yet delightful play is being presented by the Kalamunda Dramatic Society, in the KADS Theatre, 6 Central Mall, Kalamunda. Curtain up at 7.30 pm.
Tickets from www.kadstheatre.com.au/buy-tickets
The Scene: 2019 in the Prime Minister’s office at Chequers (his country residence).
The pale green walls have vertical oak battens and carry some impressive artworks. There is a Tiffany standard lamp in the corner. The green, double room doors opened out onto a corridor. Near the PM’s desk, a large picture window shows greenery and the grounds beyond – the window frame has a built-in projection screen. The wall behind the desk has a floor to ceiling dark grey bookcase, loaded with classics and reference books. A small drinks table is at the side.
The Set: Convincingly designed by David Gribble and solidly constructed by Martin Dorman and Peter Bloor.
Lighting design by Virginia Moore-Price and Sound design by Julie Hickling worked very well together to give convincing storm and ethereal effects. The Sound and Lighting operators were Ella Wakeman and David Gribble.
The quality Props and Costumes were supplied by the cast.
Stage manager, Karen Woodcock and members of the cast carried out some slick scene changes and prop removals.
When the gullible poorly educated MP James Hacker (Peter Giles) becomes Prime Minister and takes control of the government, he finds himself a subordinate servant of his own staff. The pedantic but basically honest Principal Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley (Peter Bloor) is keen to help his new boss in any way: however, the verbose Cabinet Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby (Phil Bedworth) is more worried about preserving both his cushy job and massive salary than actually helping the PM. When asked a simple question, Sir Humphrey often goes into confusing tirades of English terms and rarely used obscure words, the listener will often concede rather than admit a total lack of understanding.
When an International Ambassador from Kumranistan (Mark Fitzpatrick) arrives, he has an unusual request. The PM panics and calls for the aid of his Special Policy Advisor, Claire Sutton (Christine Gribble), a clever manipulator who has even Sir Humphrey worried.
The BBC Director General, Jeremy Burnham (Willy Smeets) is called in to ensure that various points of discussion are handled with decorum and protected from the public: Looking genuinely like Lord Reith of Stonehaven, one of the early Director Generals who was infamous for his narrow-minded Victorian attitudes, Burnham wants to know what is in it for the BBC and of course himself should he make even minor concessions to the Government.
The PM agrees to an interview with the attractive but powerful reporter, Simone Chester (Sueanne McCumstie).
Could this be the last interview ever given by this new Prime Minister?
A point of information: Alasdair Milne, the admired BBC DG of the 1980s, was asked to resign partly as a result of the programme ‘Prime Minister’ which told Britain the truth behind politics and his continuing aspiration to make the BBC independent of government influence. Maggie Thatcher did not like his desire for the truth.
Director David Gribble has done an amazing job of the is superbly written play. The script is a tongue-twister and its many topics certainly call for some prior knowledge of politics to get full appreciation of the play.
When you are staging one of the best-known comedies on British TV, the demands on the set, actors and director are huge. Despite knowing that they are going to see a play, the audience so often expect to see the same actors that played the parts 40 years ago. Sorry but bless them, most are dead now let alone appearing here.
Fear not, this cast came as near to the real thing as you could get.
The problem with the ‘Minister’ scripts is that they are fast, dense and rich in topical news. Often, in spite of quality well-paced acting some of the audience are left like stunned rabbits in the lights of an approaching car. I clapped after one of Sir Humphrey’s devious monologues but found myself the sole appreciator of such a fabulous delivery.
Audiences think that blundering actors and staged pandemonium is so easy to present, when in fact the timing and movement have to be to a split-second timing. The whole cast must work together, anticipating every line and being armed with their reply. An incredibly difficult show to perform but this cast was magnificent. The weak and apprehensive Jim Hacker, the smooth-talking conman Sir Humphrey, the wimpish but sincere Bernard, to a beauty with the cruellest ideas Claire, the Ambassador with a foreign accent, the slimy DG and the smooth reporter Simone – an incredible HIT MOB, a force to be reckoned with. Even without the script, the bodies and faces described and conveyed every thought. Fabulous talented teamwork.