YOU can’t help but smile as soon as the opening music plays – the blend of the Big Ben bongs and power chords conjure a memory of brilliant writing and satire at its finest. And so the tone is set for an evening of superb entertainment.

Directed by Ray Williams, ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ at Ilkley Playhouse this week is a master class in witty retorts, cynical asides and sardonic suppositions as the familiar characters of Jim Hacker, Bernard Woolley and Sir Humphrey Appleton are brought to life.

This play, written in 2010 by the original team of Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, has been brought up to date – or as up to date as possible when a week is a long time in politics…. Familiar story lines of financial crisis, sub-prime mortgages, Twitter and sexual politics run through this piece in hilarious style.

Set at Chequers amid parliamentary boxes, a tangle of red tape and oak panelling, the Prime Minister scrambles to restore financial stability to Europe. But just as the deal is about to be struck, they hit a significant stumbling block in the form of a request from the would-be financial saviours to be provided with some late night female entertainment.

Jim Hacker is played with vast quantities of nervous energy and unwavering panic by the excellent Andy Price, a man who in common with many a Prime Minister, is constantly on the brink. Hacker’s despair is palpable as he tries to steer a course between financial ruin and moral abomination. An impressive vocal range is brought to the part as Price intones every shade of emotion from hopelessness to jubilation whilst countering this is the steadying force of John Wise as Sir Humphrey, who is smugness personified, and Liz Hall as Claire Sutton – people who will always assume the air of being right. Bernard Woolley, master of the one liners, delivered with innocent charm by Patrick Hebbert, whose poker face suggests that he is unaware of the mischief he is making.

This is an laugh out loud play – the writing is as tight and as clever as ever it was and so much of it is entirely reminiscent of what we hear on the news daily. There are excellent performances from all involved – John Wise counsels in that most supercilious of manners as Sir Humphrey, Patrick Hebbert drops in his pithy comments with abandonment and a certain casual charm. There are excellent cameos from Wander Bruijel as an ambassador from Kumranstan (where?) and Andrew Leggott as the Director General of the BBC. And don’t miss David Wilyman’s excellent portrayal of the Paxman-like interviewer!

Anyone who has loved Yes Prime Minister will love this production and those who are too young to have seen it, should go to find out what quality writing sounds like. It runs at Ilkley Playhouse until July 21st.

by Becky Carter