Friday, 11 March 2011

Interview: Richard McCabe (Yes Prime Minister)

Since taking on the role of Prime Minister, Richard McCabe has new respect and sympathy for the man at the top, he explains to The Public Reviews journalist Jemma Crowston.

The top West End comedy Yes, Prime Minister will grace the stage at Leicester’s Curve theatre at the end of the month with a six-night stop in the city.

Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, the original writers of the classic TV series, Yes Minister and the sequel Yes, Prime Minister have reunited for this anniversary production.

Heading the coalition government, Prime Minister Jim Hacker (McCabe) and cabinet secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby (Simon Williams) face a country in financial meltdown. The only salvation comes from a morally dubious deal with the Foreign Minister of Kumranistan.

McCabe said, “It’s a 21st century version of the much loved TV series. The characters are recognisable but they have modern twists.”

He added, “It’s a wonderfully funny script about the government and those that make the decisions. The show doesn’t talk down to the audience and can be very silly. The second half is basically a farce but it can be very clever at times too.”

The 50-year-old actor said the show is not portrayed in any one particular political party. He said, “What’s great about it is that Jim has qualities of a lot of the prime minister’s over the years and there’s no obvious political party involved.”

The show has completed six weeks of its 20 week tour.

McCabe, whose played in numerous stage and TV productions including BBC’s Wallander, said, “This version of the show has the addition of a woman which reflects the changes in government now compared to when it was originally written.“There are a lot of stories in the show which you’d think were written yesterday because they’re so current and reflect what’s in the news today.”

McCabe hinted at the current controversial story of Italian politician Berlusconi and said it bares some resemblance to a part in the play.

When asked if he had ever dreamed of being the Prime Minister, the Glasgow-born actor who grew up near Brighton, said, “It’s an impossible job. I have deep sympathy for them. You have to really watch what you say because anything you say could be taken out of context in this media age.”

The set used to play out this production represents the drawing room of the well-known country residence Chequers used by many politicians. The stage is filled with oak panelling, book cases and posh furniture.

He said, “Everyone would love this show because it’s a great comedy. The older ones will come with pre-conceptions from the TV series but they might find something quite different. It’d be great to see younger people there who will just see it for what it is. It’s a very intelligent play.”

McCabe, who last came to Leicester in the 1980s to perform at the late Haymarket Theatre, is excited to return to the city.

After the tour finishes in July, McCabe is hoping to head back to Sweden for a second series of Wallander.

To book tickets for Yes, Prime Minister, which will be at Curve from March 28 to April 3 visit
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