Review: A comedy made for Canberra

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“Yes, Prime Minister,” by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn.

At the Canberra Theatre until March 31.

When I saw this on opening night during February in Melbourne, it was running a little bit slow for a comedy based on 28-minute TV grabs.

Not so now, as the cast and director Tom Gutteridge have tightened it to see happy audiences out of the theatre before 10pm.

The laughs coming pretty fast as Prime Minister Jim Hacker, Cabinet secretary Humphrey Appleby, principal private secretary Bernard Woolley and the PM’s advisor Claire Sutton face the same problems of contemporary prime ministers, not least our own Julia Gillard.

Mark Owen-Taylor played the Prime Minister in increasingly nervous and hysterical fashion, adopting an odd accent somewhere between Cary Grant and Sir Winston Churchill. Philip Quast made a formidable Sir Humphrey, but a little too serious at times.

To my mind, the night went to John Lloyd-Fillingham as a strangely physical Bernard who seemed able to stand up in an almost horizontal position and Caroline Craig as the devious, bending private secretary.

This production was made for Canberra and indeed seemed to have been redirected to emphasise things like hung parliaments and climate change, about which frankly, the playwrights seem very sceptical.

At interval I ran into Senator Gary Humphries, who exclaimed with a smile that it was all making him feel “stressed out”. No wonder.

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Helen Musa
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