REVIEW: Yes, Prime Minister! – Apollo Theatre, London

This evening, I went to see Yes, Prime Minister! – currently playing at London’s Apollo Theatre, on Shaftesbury Avenue.

Following a sell-out UK tour, this critically acclaimed production returns to the west end for a strictly limited season.

The much-loved BBC hit TV series is now playing in London’s West End in a hilarious new version written specifically for the stage by original writers Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. Following a sell-out season at Chichester Festival Theatre, Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey Appleby are back – this time to face the country in financial meltdown.

Heading the coalition government, the PM is staring disaster in the face. The country is on the brink of economic crisis and there is just one grain of hope – a morally dubious deal with the Foreign Minister of Kumranistan… But great institutions have a way of riding punches and bouncing back unscathed – will it prove so for Jim Hacker and his team of close advisors?

I must confess that this was the first time that I had encountered this ‘brand’ before – having never seen either Yes, Minister! or Yes, Prime Minister! in the past (though I believe this was Thatcher’s favourite TV programme… which perhaps makes me think that my avoidance could be a good thing… but I digress! 😉 hehe).

Essentially, what the production team have done here is to create another episode of Yes, Prime Minister! and bring the story right up to date. There’s talk of the coalition government, drastic austerity measures are being bandied about, and there’s even a cheeky joke about phone hacking – so the story truly is as ‘present day’ as one can make it – something that the fans of the TV series will no doubt appreciate.

Although musical theatre is my fortay, and I tend to have a higher success rate with enjoying those over plays, I have a very geeky side and an (often satirical) interest in the workings of Whitehall and politics as a whole, and so was very keen to see this production.

On the whole, I found Yes, Prime Minister! to be a rather enjoyable way to pass the 2 hours 20 minutes (there is one interval). The storyline moves at a decent pace so as to keep the audience captivated, and the humour is definitely rather ‘British’ and dry – something the audience warmed very well to (the American’s beside me, loved the quips about the American’s and foreign people). I did find Act II more enjoyable than Act I – but then I am a fan of farce, and once this play descends into this realm, it is then that it really hits its stride, in my opinion.

I felt that the casting for this play was thoughtfully considered, and especially liked Simon Williams as the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby (incidentally, I REALLY liked his suit and waistcoat combination! hehe).

The set is rather nice on the eye, though static, and I liked the use of the BBC News theme music, played in full towards the end of Act II (see, I told you I was a geek – I love this piece of music!) – though I was a little bit unsure as to why the BBC News theme was played as the curtain was going up right at the start of Act I… it seemed incredibly out-of-place and somewhat confusing.

The performance felt as if you were actually watching a sitcom from the television unfold right in front of your eyes, and so I do think that fans of the original TV series will not be disappointed with this offering – I think it feels quite genuine in that aspect, and so ultimately in that respect this production will no doubt be something of a success, borne out by its very popular recent tour of the UK.

For me, it was a little too much like a prime-time sitcom – I had been hoping for something perhaps a little more farcical or tongue-in-cheek critical of the current political situation / ‘hard-hitting’ comedy – but at the same time, I do fully recognise that this is my misapprehension and personal preference, and is through no fault of the production – as I say, I am a total newcomer to this ‘brand’ and didn’t quite know what to expect! I fully recognise, in retrospect, that this is what I should have expected, and to that end – I genuinely do think that this delivers, and was, ultimately, enjoyable!

Yes, Prime Minister! is currently at the Apollo Theatre, London for a strictly limited 10 week run (until September 17th 2011). More information can be found, and tickets purchased, via the production’s official website.

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About Gari

Thirty-Two year old northern lad; living out in the Peak District and rediscovering life after having had a brain tumour.

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