Politics poked fun at in satirical comedy

Forty Years On at Chichester Festival Theatre SUS-170217-095019001

REVIEW: Forty Years On at Chichester Festival Theatre

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A country suffering from a financial melt-down sound familiar? A comedy that takes a look at the very heart of the British government will be arriving at Chichester Festival Theatre next week.

Following a sell-out premiere in Festival 2010, a UK tour, and a transfer to the West End, the production of Yes, Prime Minister is back on tour until May this year.

Based on the original BBC series, it follows Prime Minister Jim Hacker, played by Graham Seed (The Archers), and Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby, played by Michael Simkins (Trial and Retribution).

On the brink of financial disaster the Government’s only salvation comes from a deal with the Foreign Minister of Kumranistan.

Excited to be offered such a big role, Graham Seed says: ‘It’s a challenge, but it’s great to get offered such a great big whopping role. It’s been played by very well-known actors, but I don’t think you should turn a challenge down.

‘It’s the biggest challenge of my career, and at my age that’s quite unexpected. I’m never off the stage, I’m on it for about two hours. But it’s nice to work with Michael. I’ve known him for years but never worked with him.’

Graham played Nigel Pargetter for nearly 30 years in the BBC radios series, The Archers, before leaving at the start of 2011.

He adds: ‘2011 has been the best year I’ve had for a long time, and the business has been very kind. Of course I miss The Archers but other doors have opened. It’s immensely exciting, and when I think back to 1979 when the original series was out, and I got my first job, I was a very very young actor.

‘I had just left Rada, and never in my wildest dreams thought I could take on this role, and now it’s coming true. I’m determined that the audience will get as much fun from it as we do.’

Excited in the run up to his performance in Chichester, Michael says: ‘It’s been a huge hit in the West End. In fact, I saw the play a couple of years ago, and I remember thinking there are a couple of wonderful parts in it.

‘It went down a storm, and its a wonderful part to play. Then when they asked to see me for it. I was absolutely thrilled.’

Working with the original writers, Antony Jay and Jonathan lynn, is a real treat for the actor.

Michael adds: ‘The thing about stage versions about famous things on TV, you don’t get to work with people who wrote the original. Jonathan Lynn was at the casting and the whole creative process. I’m actually working with the people who devised this in the first place!’

But it hasn’t been easy preparing for the role, as Michael needed to learn a number of speeches for the production. He says: ‘I tried to get some of the biggest speeches done over Christmas. I kept nipping from the Christmas table into the bathroom. I think they thought something very weird was going on!’

Having recently finished starring in Chicago and Mamma Mia! in the West End, playing the role of the Cabinet Secretary is certainly a different route, but he wouldn’t have it any other way, saying ‘I’m a very lucky actor. I can do musicals, even though my training is for serious plays,’

He’s even made a small appearance in the recently released film starring Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady.

Michael says: ‘I was originally supposed to have a bigger part, but I said look I’m really sorry but I’m doing a play. I jumped at the chance to work really big stars.

‘I’m supposed to write a book this summer and every time my editor rings up I say no I can’t I’m trying to learn lines. Really I’m just waiting for the call from Steven Speilberg because he has realised that I’m the missing link in his plans for world domination.’

Yes, Prime Minister runs from January 26 until February 4.

Tickets cost £11 to £30 from Chichester Festival Theatre on (01243) 781312 or go to cft.org.uk.

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