Bristol Evening Post 2 March 2011
Is it right to take an icon of British television comedy and reconstruct it for the theatre? Well if anyone can claim that privilege it surely belongs to Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn the creators of Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey Appleby the brilliant political satirical double act of the 1980s.
They penned the original programmes which starred those late greats Paul Eddington as the permanently troubled government minister and Nigel Hawthorne as the smooth-talking manipulative mandarin. Now they have updated and transformed their characters to lampoon the modern Whitehall generation.
Hacker is now in No 10 as the precarious leader of a coalition and his future rests on negotiating a loan from an oil-rich Asian state. Things go well until, following a dinner at Chequers, the visiting foreign secretary makes an illegal sexual demand as the price of his signature.
The authors have not only developed their characters they have noticeably changed their relationship The PM is now outwardly more presidential and his disintegration in times of crisis is distinctly physical. Richard McCabe gives a stunningly commanding performance in the part visibly exploding with frustration.
By contrast Sir Humphrey is at times reduced almost to an also-ran role behind Hacker and Bernard Woolley the principal private secretary. Gravel-voiced Simon Williams still manages to make the most of a couple of stupefying wordy soliloquies and Chris Larkin shines as the naive and verbally pedantic Bernard. The introduction of a woman policy advisor adds little to the team
So does it work? Well there are certainly some hilarious scenes, particularly one involving God and lightning, and some great political barbs. But overall you get the sense of an elongated version of a script that would make outstanding television.