Review: Yes, Prime Minister, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
JIM Hacker changed the world, it seems. Alas, the world seems also to have changed Jim Hacker.
In the theatre programme, a former Labour politician explains how Tony Blair's ministers grew up watching Yes, Prime Minister on TV.
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"They made it clear they were not going to be hoodwinked by the Sir Humphreys," he writes. Times changed; in came the "Spads", the special advisers.
So for this stage version writers Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn have included a new character, Jim's own Spad, played by the delightful Indra Ové.
This might have provided rich material for new rivalries inside Number 10. But perhaps they think we have all become too cynical for such subtleties.
The merely cunning Sir Humphrey (Crispin Redman) has become corrupt, passing on financial secrets, and the once wry and witty Bernard (Michael Matus) has become a well-educated twerp. But, as Mrs Dale would have said, I'm terribly worried about Jim.
Hacker used to be hapless, but not heartless. So was I the only one to squirm when he agrees to supply prostitutes to secure an oil deal, then insists they are foreign girls illegally trafficked to the UK?
The writers throw so many spicy issues into the pot – global warming, Europe, cabinet splits, hacking, torture, terrorists – it's no wonder that Hacker (Michael Fenton Stevens) goes off his rocker.
It's hard to replicate TV's slickness on stage but the cast cope well, Stevens especially, and there are still plenty of laughs from the slippery evasions and one-line put-downs: "Hung Parliament? Hanging is too good for them."
But sadly, I have to say, I preferred the other lot of decent, old-fashioned British liars and bunglers.
The play runs until Saturday, March 9. Call 01242 572573.