A female PM at loggerheads with her European counterparts, a sinking pound and cabinet colleagues plotting against each other - where do these playwrights get their ideas from? Paul Stammers brings us a preview.
Things change quickly in politics, even of the amateur dramatics variety. Gillian Somerscales was cast as Jill Hacker only a fortnight before the curtain went up, because two previous candidates had unexpectedly dropped out … And what a job she does - whirling about the stage, full of hubris that turns to panic as events take an increasingly farcical turn, thanks to a dignitary’s demand for an orgy at Chequers. I doubt that Mrs May is quite so frenetic.
It’s a relief at times to hear the soothing, if patently insincere, tones of Gareth Hammond as the scheming Sir Humphrey Appleby, all pomp and pinstripes as he reels off multi-caveated ripostes with aplomb - earning deserved applause for his verbal dexterity.
Whether or not you saw the TV series, you’ll still be able to enjoy the intrigue and witty dialogue, which is sprinkled with more risqué lines than Auntie Beeb allowed on prime-time. The more contemporary elements notwithstanding (the play was first performed in 2010), it’s at heart a traditional Whitehall farce and at times, unashamedly un-PC.
The production values in this piece - Denise Santilli’s directorial debut - are typically robust and the performances charming. Ed Miller is delightful as Sir Humphrey’s earnest underling, Bernard Woolley - when I say he’s rubber-faced, that’s meant as a compliment.
Kate O’Connor is compelling as the shrewd, glamorous Claire Sutton, Head of the Policy Unit at Number Ten, while Steve Ashcroft is a refreshingly worldly-wise foil to the haughty British PM in his role as the Ambassador of oil-rich Kumranistan. Nick Smith is suave, but a little diffident as the badgered Director-General of the BBC - I fear the piercing gaze of steely interviewer Simone Chester (Liz Hutchinson) would leave him flustered. Sara Miller is the voice of a BBC press officer who is given short thrift.
It’s a must for satire fans and however jaded a political observer you are, you’re likely to be thunderstruck during the show. You’ve been warned …