Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Seeing Yes, Prime Minister with a Political Insider

It was always going to be interesting, seeing Yes, Prime Minister with someone who used to be an advisor to the guy who's just been made leader of the opposition. (Of course, we didn't know this at the time, but the little insights into the workings of a similar office still stand true.)

JC's first comment was that the set was pretty damn good. "That's just about the size Ed's office used to be," he whispered, before any action had even taken place. "In fact, looks pretty like it."

The second thing he spotted about the same time as me: that David Haig's (as PM Jim Hacker) suit and shoes just weren't right. It doesn't take experience of working in Whitehall to see when someone's costume just doesn't fit the part. A sloppy, ill-fitting, tired-looking suit, and some terrible "comfy" shoes will big, fat, rubbery soles don't scream, "look at me, I'm pushing the Presidential part of my powerful position as Prime Minister of the Britain and Northern Ireland..." It was off-putting.

My betrothed(!) was also quick to give kudos to Emily Joyce's portrayal of Special Advisor Claire. "She's got exactly the right levels of arrogance and ohgodidontknowwhatimdoing for a SPAD," was JC's assessment.

But the main thing that got to JC was that it just hadn't been updated enough for his liking. Just adding references to Blackberrys and the like doesn't suddenly make a show zeitgeisty. Today, people like Sir Humphrey, far from being completely disinterested in what the electorate might want or think (as portrayed in the 80s by the TV show) are now obsessed with it, according to JC. Sure, to reinvent a character would've perhaps been beyond the desires of the audience, but it would've been nice if there was one voice onstage showing a more modern approach to taking the temperature of the people as a whole, through twitter or facebook or whatever. (But any reference to tweets or, dare I say, pokes would've been missed by the majority of the properly ancient audience on the night we saw the show...)

Which leads me to one final point on this funny but flawed play.

There was an excellent example of what I'm going to start referring to as "satire fail" on the night when we were there. You might remember me questioning the weird, I felt, inappropriate laughter at The Little Dog Laughed back in January. There was a similar incident in Yes, Prime Minister. I'm not 100% sure I can remember what the line was exactly, but it was after something about the Freedom of Information act being a bad thing, uttered by a character we should, of course, not be sympathising with. It was a piece of satire. Cue gales of agreement-based Toff laughter from the back, which can't help but leave a bit of a sour taste in your mouth. "No!" I find myself wanting to shout, "It's not funny like that. You shouldn't be laughing. Unless you agree with what's just been said. In which case, I don't like being in an audience with you..."

Satire fail, see?
Read my review of Yes Prime Minister on londonist here, or check out my Your Views piece on the Visit London Blog

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