Yes, Prime Minister at Oxford PlayhouseBy Roy Martin
March 01, 2012
Legendary TV politicians Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey are enjoying a new lease of life in the theatre and they bring their Westminster gamesmanship to the Oxford Playhouse next week.
Transporting the classic television series to the stage, Yes, Prime Minister shines a satirical spotlight on a world of BlackBerrys, dossiers and economic disaster.
Hacker is played by Graham Seed, who was in the media spotlight himself when he was ‘terminated’ from the long-running radio saga The Archers, in which he was the voice of Nigel Pargitter for more than a quarter of a century. When I spoke to him during his 15-week tour of Yes, Prime Minister, in which he is partnered by Michael Simkins as Sir Humphrey, he was philosophical about the end of what he called his ‘part-time job’ in The Archers.
“Strangely enough, it gave me a higher profile – and no actor expects any role to last forever,” he says.
For the stage version of their TV classic, Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay have brought the characters into the modern world of recession and Eurozone crises, but Graham says that audiences will find their antics reassuringly familiar.
“Of course, we can’t do the kind of close-up comedy possible on TV, but as compensation we have drawn on our rich tradition of stage farce,” Graham promises.
The actor agrees that Paul Eddington is a hard act to follow, but, he adds: “Every actor has to put their own stamp on a character.”
Since leaving The Archers, he has also toured with Nigel Havers in Basket Case, a new comedy by Nick Fisher. On TV, he has appeared in Midsomer Murders and Steven Spielberg’s Band of Brothers.
Simkins has starred on the West End stage in such shows as Chigaco, and had a regular role in Foyle’s War.
He had also published a number of books, including one about his trade, What’s My Motivation?
Others include The Last Flannelled Fool, a look at cricket, and Detour de France: An Englishman in Search of a Continental Education.
Yes Minister, and its Prime Ministerial sequel, regularly topped the TV ratings in the 1980s and also became best-selling books.
Jonathan Lynn, who also directs the stage version, made a number of movies in Hollywood including Steve Martin’s Sgt Bilko and the Bruce Willis’ The Whole Nine Yards.
Yes, Prime Minister is at Oxford Playhouse from March 5-11. Call 01865 305305 or visit www.oxfordplayhouse.com