The cast of Yes, Prime Minister.
The cast of Yes, Prime Minister.

British satire pokes fun at pollies

THE satirical portrayal of British politics in Yes, Prime Minister was largely lost on this child growing up in the '80s.

But today, now covering parliament in Brisbane, it is scarily easy to draw parallels between the fictional farce of the TV show at 10 Darling St and the daily goings on at 100 George St.

You can almost imagine the real conversations that might go on behind closed doors to confuse journalists, throw them off the scent or thwart them at the pass.

The long, official-sounding string of words, that essentially mean nothing and do not answer questions, delivered by Sir Humphrey Appleby to Prime Minister Jim Hacker are deliciously on par with many a government response to issues.

The cogs of political spin that turn when a disaster hits might be an exaggeration but I suspect any government secretary or press advisor would find plenty of scary similarities watching this play.

Yes, Prime Minister, the play, is a modern take on the fictional TV show documenting a prime minister's struggle to enact legislation or effect departmental changes when he is constantly opposed by the British Home Civil Service, particularly his permanent secretary Sir Humphrey.

As former British policy advisor Bernard Donoughue writes in the program for the play, a prime minister may appear supremely powerful to the public but he does not always feel that way as he battles with the troops.

While the tensions between the political and bureaucratic powers and dealing with serious policy issues are at the heart of the dramatic scenarios in the play, the writers have woven in scandal, morals and public scrutiny to make for a compelling piece of theatre.

Set at Chequers, the country residence of Britain's prime minister, the team at the heart of the United Kingdom government battles a financial crisis, the global warming debate and the fragility of a contract with oil-rich country Kumranistan.

The latter hinges on an unsavoury request which has them scrambling to find a solution.

All the while they are battling an insatiable 24-hour news cycle and electronic newsgathering.

Tony Llewellyn-Jones was perfect as Sir Humphrey, being officious and portraying an air of supremacy in the most passive-aggressive manner.

His ability to deliver long, complicated dialogue - designed to demonstrate the art of using language to say nothing at all - was nothing short of incredible and worthy of applause.

Mark Owen-Taylor - who looked remarkably like Colin Firth on stage - initially seems a walkover as Jim Hacker with no real grasp of the issues in his country but he becomes endearing as he craftily combats opponent Sir Humphrey at his own game.

While the satire is delectable, the comedic value from the charmingly dorky principal private secretary Bernard Woolley, played by John Lloyd Fillingham, who is usually caught between the Appleby and Hacker makes the show.

Yes, Prime Minister runs until July 22 at the Playhouse theatre at QPAC.

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