Beloved TV series coming to theatre

The cast of the theatrical adaptation of Yes Prime Minister, from left, John Lloyd Fillingham, Mark Owen Taylor, Caroline Craig and Tony Llewellyn-Jones.
The cast of the theatrical adaptation of Yes Prime Minister, from left, John Lloyd Fillingham, Mark Owen Taylor, Caroline Craig and Tony Llewellyn-Jones. Contributed - The Shock Factor

DINNER with a foreign diplomat on a rainy evening at Chequers, what could go wrong?

Plenty for the well-meaning Prime Minister Jim Hacker in the theatrical adaptation of the beloved '80s television series Yes, Prime Minister.

The Australian production of the popular play continues its tour of the country, opening at the QPAC Playhouse on Wednesday.

The farce is a modern interpretation of the original series and puts PM Hacker in a very sticky situation when his economy-saving infrastructure deal with the oil-rich country of Kumranistan hinges on a very unsavoury request.

"It starts off with greatest hits of the series that people remember and then goes into new material," said Mark Owen-Taylor, who plays Hacker.

"It's folly to try and recreate what was already done. We didn't want to mimic what had been done before.

"The dynamics in the relationships between the characters are the same, but there is recognition that the characters are different."

The Australian cast brings a distinct physicality to the show.

Owen-Taylor, in particular, works his character into a fever pitch which eventually finds him assuming the foetal position.

"I heard one of our politicians did actually curl into a foetal position under the table," he said.

"Everything you see in the play and the TV series has happened. You can't believe it but it's true. It's kind of frightening isn't it?"

John Lloyd Fillingham is the only Brit in the cast, playing besieged civil servant Bernard Woolley as he tries to balance the interests of the PM and the scheming Sir Humphrey Appleby.

The Shakespearean actor said he became besotted with the TV series all over again while preparing for the role, his first in an Australian production.

"Sitcoms, they date and fall apart. What was amazing once isn't sometimes," he said.

"The comedy (in the TV series) is so razor sharp and so super smart and still relatively unique.

"(In the play) you see the characters go further than a half-hour format allows and at the same time it still has satirical teeth."

Tony Llewellyn-Jones, who has been playing the BBC Director General in the Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney runs, plays Sir Humphrey in the Gold Coast and Brisbane shows.

"I've got Sir Humphrey ready for the southeast corner of the great state of Queensland," he said.

"And I hope Mr and Mrs Newman come, and Mr and Mrs Beatty and Mr and Mrs Bligh."

Yes, Prime Minister opens at QPAC on Wednesday and plays through July 22.

Tickets start at $70. To book go to www.qpac.com.au.

Topics:  play qpac theatre

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