Review: Yes, Prime Minister, Theatre Royal, Newcastle

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YES, Prime Minister is a classic sitcom from the 70s and 80s in which we see who really runs the country – elected representatives of Parliament or the permanent Civil Service, whose background is major public school and Oxbridge.

The Old School Tie wins every time. It was a very funny sitcom back then.

The first 20 minutes of this play was like greeting an old friend as Simon Williams as Sir Humphrey ties the hapless and increasingly drunk Prime Minister Jim Hacker (Richard McCabe) in knots over policy.

Despite referring to Germans as “Krauts” and French as “Frogs” it was very funny, as you’d expect from the original writers Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn.

Best suited to a 29-minute sitcom, the writers had to flesh out the storyline. Hence, there was a lot of padding and too much explanation between some cracking gags and word play.

The problem, however, lay with the subject matter: the country of Kumranstan wanted to build an oil pipe through every European country, bypassing Russia, thus enriching Europe by 11trillion pounds and boosting employment.

However, to secure this lucrative deal the Kumranstan Foreign Minister wanted to sleep with an underage girl.

The dilemma for Hacker and the rest was how they could arrange this without the press finding out. For an hour we had gags like “lie back and think of England” and other inappropriate “jokes” about child abuse. There’s a place for topics like this in theatre but not in a knockabout comedy bordering on farce. Those people who laughed at even the suggestion of the rape of a minor should hang their heads in shame and look to the current reaction of women in Italy over the same issue.