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REVIEW ROUNDUP: Henry Goodman, David Haig Open Yes, Prime Minister in the West End

By London
Henry Goodman and David Haig in
Yes, Prime Minister
(© Manuel Harlan)
Henry Goodman and David Haig in
Yes, Prime Minister
(© Manuel Harlan)
David Haig and Henry Goodman have officially opened in Yes, Prime Minister at the West End's Gielgud Theatre. Based on the hit television series of the same name, the play has been adapted for the stage by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn and directed by Lynn.

The play focuses on fictional Prime Minister Jim Hacker (Haig), his Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby (Goodman) and his Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley (Jonathan Slinger) who are finding themselves coping with the realities of politics in the 21st century.

The company also features Emily Joyce (Claire Sutton), Sam Dastor (The Kumranistan Ambassador), Tim Wallers (Simon Chestor, BBC Presenter) and William Chubb (Jeremy Burnham, Director General of the BBC).

The production has designs by Simon Higlett and lighting design by Tim Mitchell.

The reviews have begun to appear and critics are unanimous in their praise of Goodman and Haig's work. There is division among the reviewers about the play itself and how successful Jay and Lynn have been in transferring the television property to the stage.

Among the reviews are:

Daily Telegraph
Yes, Prime Minister, Gielgud Theatre, London, review
"The show's writers, Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, are as bang on the money as ever, while those superb actors David Haig and Henry Goodman make the roles of the PM and his cabinet secretary, formerly played by the much-missed Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne, entirely their own."

"Haig switches from insufferable smugness to carpet-chewing panic in the blink of an eye in Lynn's sharp, handsomely designed production, while Henry Goodman brings a delicious hauteur and glib fluency to Sir Humphrey. Jonathan Slinger is also a nerdy delight as the private secretary, Bernard, wrestling with his conscience as the country heads towards hell in a handcart."

Evening Standard
Politics is still a fun game in Yes, Prime Minister
"Paul Edddington and Nigel Hawthorne are, of course, tough acts to follow but Henry Goodman and David Haig, two of the finest actors on the British stage, are canny choices...Goodman is all suave machinations and verbosity as Sir Humphrey, whereas the demands of our voracious 24-hour news culture are driving Haig's Hacker increasingly -- sometimes excessively -- apoplectic."

"Jonathan Lynn directs the escalating mayhem with assurance and even though the Kumranistani dilemma drags occasionally before being resolved too glibly and swiftly, there's a delightful stream of one-liners to sustain dramatic tempo and audience spirits. Haig and Goodman engage in bouts of welcome verbal swordplay, and there's strong support from Jonathan Slinger as permanently put-upon Principal Private Secretary Bernard and Emily Joyce as Hacker's feisty adviser."

London Theatre Guide
Yes, Prime Minister
"Nevertheless, the comedy calibre is kept high by two masters of farce: David Haig and Henry Goodman recreate the cat-and-mouse relationship between politician Hacker and civil servant Appleby, whose often competing agendas result in bluff and blunder. Goodman in particular captures a distinct flavour of the TV series with his Nigel Hawthorne-esque portrayal of Appleby, whose clipped vowels and verbose speeches reveal his innate pomposity."

"Incredibly, the writers manage to resolve the story and tie up its many themes in a neat finale that is aided by a Jeremy Paxman impersonator (Tim Wallers), a contemporary reference that goes down well with the audience. But fans of the TV show will be pleased to know that the play ends in the traditional manner, as it must, with the words 'Yes, Prime Minister.'"

The Stage
Yes, Prime Minister
"...on the one hand, Jay and Lynn have at least gone to the trouble of giving Prime Minister Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey Appleby, his endlessly obsequious but always darkly plotting cabinet secretary, a new plot to bring to life. But on the other, unlike the 30-minute format of the sitcom, it has to be stretched out to fill over two hours of stage traffic, and the strain shows."

"Nevertheless, David Haig does heroic work to bring this sweaty comedy to life, bringing his trademark high-energy performance of mounting panic to the PM, and Henry Goodman steps into the late Nigel Hawthorne's shoes as Sir Humphrey with suavely calculated assurance. Jonathan Slinger, recently a fine Richard II and III for the RSC, demonstrates a smart talent for light comedy as Principal Private Secretary Bernard (Derek Fowlds in the TV original)."

Whatsonstage.com
Yes, Prime Minister
"David Haig, apoplectic and down-at-heel as the PM, and Henry Goodman, pop-eyed and oily as Sir Humphrey, do an excellent job in bearing no resemblance at all to their much loved, much subtler predecessors in the television series, Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne."

"But Lynn's broad production has coarsened still further since Chichester; the playing has acquired a desperation that stifles laughter. And there still remains the unpleasant, unfunny business of paedophilia in the terms of political agreement; before he signs the deal on the oil pipe-line, the unseen Kumranistan foreign secretary demands an under-age prostitute."


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