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National Operatic & Dramatic Association
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Yes, Prime Minister

Date

12th April 2019

Society

Marlborough Dramatic Club

Venue

Brentwood School Memorial Hall

Type of Production

Play

Director

Louise O'Connor

Report

Author: Jess Pether

Being too young to remember the classic British sitcom Yes, Prime Minister, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect when going to see it as a play. Written in 2010 by the original writers of the TV show, Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, it is set in a world of Twitter, Blackberries and 24 hour news. As the official website says: “With the country on the brink of a financial meltdown, the PM is staring disaster in the face with his only apparent salvation in a morally dubious deal with the Foreign Minister of Kumranistan.” As you can imagine, some farcical situations ensued!

I will hold my hands up and admit that I’m not a fan of politics and usually try to stay well clear, so I was worried the story and characters would go over my head. But the actors in this show were talented and personable and kept me interested in what would happen next.

It was an extremely wordy play, and I was impressed with how well each person remembered their lines. There were a handful of moments where two lines would overlap, but as the story revolves around a growing crisis for the PM that becomes ever more frantic, this generally added to the realism and it didn’t seem to throw anyone off, which was good.

William Wells as the PM, Jim Hacker, stood out to me as one of the strongest in the small cast. He had a raft of excellent facial expressions, great diction and switched between calm and panicked with ease. He was a great central figure for the play to revolve around. I also particularly liked Lindsey Crutchett as Special Policy Advisor Claire Sutton. On a stage full of men in suits, it was a breath of fresh air to see her colourful dresses and she played the part really well. She had great comedy timing.

Paul Bell as Bernard Woolley, PPS to the PM, had a good air of bumbling about him, which the character called for, and he did well to remember all the Latin phrases he had to keep quoting. However, his diction and facial expressions could have been better in places. Elliott Porte as Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby could be heard well and seemed to play the part with ease.

The most “exotic” character in the show was played by Vernon Keeble-Watson, as the Kumranistan Ambassador. I loved his quirky costume (a silk dressing gown, socks with oriental flip flops and a brilliant moustache!) and he was an interesting contrast to the other characters. The scenes really shifted when he came on stage. James Biddles as the Director General of the BBC only had a very small role so not much to get his teeth into but was good. Unfortunately, he had some very battered old shoes on as part of his costume which is the only thing, I would say, didn’t quite fit!

When I entered the hall before the show started, I was instantly struck by the impressive set which was designed and built by members of the committee. It filled the small stage but didn’t overwhelm it and the attention to detail was superb. I liked that pieces of the set came all the way out to the lip of the stage, which showed that positioning had been thought through. The group also employed the use of two large TV screens in front of the stage. These were used once to show a pre-recorded BBC News report (presented by Margaret Corry, as BBC presenter Simone Chester) and once to show a live news report that was being filmed as you watched, on the stage by a camera man. Very clever!

The one thing I will say that was slightly distracting was not only the amount of “whiskey” that was drunk by the characters during the show but also wondering how many more new glasses were going to be used and who would drink out of one next! At one point, the PM had three different glasses on the go as new ones kept being used. Perhaps this was meant to be part of the madness but I found myself paying attention to the glasses more than the dialogue at a few points!

No scene was ever too static and the play was directed well. The stage and set were used to full effect. There were also some great lighting and sound effects part way through when a storm was simulated… it actually made me jump!

I was really quite impressed with how slick and well this group put on the play. Not only that but what a lovely warm welcome I received when I arrived. I was looked after really well and had a chat with lots of lovely people during the interval, including the director Louise. As my first solo outing as a NODA rep, I’d like to say thank you for your hospitality.