Anyone familiar with the wonderful “Yes Minister” and, subsequently, “Yes, Prime Minister” shows, written by Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn will remember their extraordinary wit, and the insight they reveal of a government’s inner workings. Yes, they are supposed to be comedies, and no, they are not based on any real-life characters or situations; but my word, do they sometimes seem too close for comfort.
Resident troubadours Chuck and Barrie Quappe have taken on the task of bringing two episodes of “Yes Minister” to the Prospect Playhouse Theatre, with Barrie in the role of director and Chuck in charge of the musical arrangements. They both adapted the script for the local stage.
The show opened on Sept. 15 and is running every Thursday-Saturday through Oct. 1.
The plots thicken
In Act 1, Jim and Annie Hacker (Adam Roberts and Fay Anne De Freitas) are anxiously awaiting a phone call from the Prime Minister’s office, formally announcing the ministry that Jim Hacker will be given after the recent election. Actually, Jim is the anxious one while his wife calmly deals with his pacing and fervent answering of phone calls until the one he’s been waiting for finally comes in: He has been assigned to the Department of Administrative Affairs.
Through the course of the day, he meets Sir Humphrey Appleby (Dominic Wheaton) and Bernard Wooley (Mike Bishop). The former is Hacker’s permanent secretary, who smoothly appears ready to assist Hacker with anything he needs, but really is there to undermine him in any way possible to avoid “upsetting the apple cart” of government. Poor Bernard often gets caught in the middle.
In the meantime, Frank Wiesel (Michael McLaughlin) tries to keep his voice heard as Hacker’s political advisor, but is often drowned out by Sir Humphrey’s advice and assurances.
Although Hacker means well, he has no idea of what he is up against when it comes to Sir Humphrey. When he decides he wants to push for “Open Government,” he finds himself in an early pickle and perhaps has to rethink his strategy.
In Act 2, Hacker is on an economy drive, but when Sir Humphrey forces him to set a personal example that removes all the little luxuries that come with his post, it’s just the beginning of a series of missteps that could cost him his ministerial position.
Dorothy Pritchard (Juliet Fenn) is the general secretary of the Union of the Civil Service Transport and Associated Government Workers, who finds herself in a meeting with the minister who clearly has no idea who she is. He puts his foot in it over and over again until she reveals her identity. Will Hacker survive this latest crisis? You have to see the show to find out.
Cast and crew
There is an extraordinary number of set changes throughout the evening, performed quickly and quietly by a crew of tens between each scene. The choice of music is particularly entertaining, with pieces that many film fans will recognize as being appropriate for the situations unfolding on stage. Again, it is nice to have live musicians in the “orchestra pit” – Chuck and Barrie Quappe, with Kate Allenger on violin.
Adam Roberts is very believable as the bumbling yet earnest Minister Hacker (he may or may not take that as a compliment) with Dominic Wheaton playing a very dry Sir Humphrey, all eyebrows and knowing smiles – a façade of concern and support masking a sea of Machiavellian machinations.
Mike Bishop is excellent as Bernard, eager to correct the minister’s mixed metaphors when there are far more urgent tasks at hand, and Michael McLaughlin’s Wiesel (mispronounced “weasel” by all characters) is clearly a man very put out at being pushed to the back burner by everyone in the ministry.
It’s nice to see Fay Anne De Freitas back on the stage after a number of years, and she clearly enjoys playing Hacker’s wife, who is the voice of reason in his sometimes manic world.
Richard De Lacy, often found behind the violin for Cayman Drama Society productions, is front and center as Sir Arnold Robinson, the cabinet secretary and master manipulator to whom Sir Humphrey turns for counsel. I believe De Lacy said that the part was tailor made for him, and I can’t disagree. He plays pompous with delicious delight.
Rounding out the cast is Juliet Fenn, who plays multiple roles and provides one of the biggest laughs of the night with some exaggerated accessories in Act 2; Anika Hewitt as the capable and long-suffering secretary; Sheree Ebanks, almost unrecognizable as Nellie the cleaning lady; Laki Lee serving up the drinks in the Reform Club where Sir Humphrey and Sir Arnold hatch their plots; and Ashleigh Moore as one of the dreaded London paparazzi looking to make a few bob from someone else’s misery.
The Cayman Drama Society’s production of “Yes Minister” is an entertaining evening out. With a 15-minute intermission, it clocks in at around 90 minutes and brings many welcome chuckles.
Considering the fact that we are coming into an election year, the material is perhaps even more relevant than usual. It could be life imitating art come next May.
‘Yes Minister’ is showing at the Prospect Playhouse Theatre on Sept. 22, 23, 24, 29, 30 and Oct. 1. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at www.cds.ky.
Email [email protected] or call 938-1998 for further information.