Bishopston has entered the world of politics this week with a splendid theatrical production of the popular 80s TV sitcom “Yes, Prime Minister” by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. As an avid viewer of the original, I remember a comedy which defined a decade in Thatcher’s Britain, but wondered whether such wonderful political satire of its age would travel well over the several decades which have since passed. However, some effort has been made to modernise proceedings and, as a result, the new offering feels fresh and contemporary. There’s also a fair amount of goings-on that do go on; £10trillion loans, foreign oil pipelines, illegal immigrants, call-girls, Euro Jobs (don’t ask!)… just some of the delights discussed at Chequers. And yet the core message stays as relevant as ever and we realise that Westminster is indeed run by civil servants who lurk in the corridors of power behind their ministerial figureheads.
So we once more get to meet our Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Jim Hacker, his Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby and his Principal Private Secretary, Bernard Woolley. While Jaimes Cooper was the perfect choice to head the BATS cast as Sir Humphrey, accordingly, under Barry Cooper’s influential direction, Piers Morgan-Harvey turned in a fine performance in bringing a more animated and sometimes manic Jim Hacker to the political table. Piers turns up the heat as the evening progresses and in a very well-played scene his Jim Hacker brilliantly turns the arrogant Jenny Burnham, DG of the BBC (Julie Greenwood), into a nervous wreck by threatening to reduce the BBC’s output to just two radio stations and a single TV channel! In complete control of his output and posture, Jaimes Cooper provided a masterly delivery of Sir Humphrey in perhaps the standout performance of the evening. The perfect ‘politician’ never to sit in parliament, Jaimes oozed the smarmy characteristics of someone who knows exactly how to survive in Westminster. His several lengthy responses that consistently failed to provide any tangible (or understandable) answers to the PM’s direct questions rightly drew the audience’s applause.
Heather Cooper did a reliable job in underplaying the straight and level-headed role of the play as Claire Sutton – Head of the Policy Unit at Number Ten while, in contrast, Roger Bell fully played up to his role as Bernard Woolley. As the only one of the protagonists to even consider moral implications over any political manoeuvring, Sir Humphrey’s ‘sidekick’, who is also answerable to the PM, is probably in the wrong line of work! Kumranistan Ambassador, Stewart Hiorns provided a subtly menacing presence whilst praise must also go to the short but cleverly played out TV interview involving Sarah Govier as Simone Chester, TV presenter.
So all in all a good night out with excellent acting and more than a few laughs. Well done BATS.