YES, Minister and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister are two of the most popular sitcoms of all time.
The 1980s series won numerous awards and regularly features in both critics’ and the public’s top five of the best comedy shows ever produced.
The premise is both simple and timeless – the servant who is far smarter, better informed and much more quick-witted than his dim but well-meaning master.
The hapless minister, and then prime minister, of the title, Jim Hacker, is expertly manipulated and manoeuvred by his permanent secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby who, with his fellow civil servants, really runs the country.
“The formula couldn’t be older,” says Jonathan Lynn, who co-wrote the series with Antony Jay.
“And I think there are other universal aspects of their relationship, otherwise it couldn’t have been popular in the 84 countries in which the series has been shown.”
Lynn and Jay reunited in 2010 to pen an updated version of Yes, Prime Minister, which has proved a hit on the London stage.
About to step into the shoes of Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne on tour are Michael Fenton Stevens as Hacker and Crispin Redman as Sir Humphrey.
Redman, 53, who is best known for his recurring role as Judge Rory Richards in Law and Order: UK, as well as numerous theatre roles, said the prospect is exciting, if a little daunting.
“Sir Humphrey is almost a national icon in comedic terms,” he explained, “but as an actor you have to take your own intuition and personality to it.
“It would be a mistake to go on stage and do something completely different with this because the writing suggests only one journey, and you have to follow that.”
A major reason for the success of the series, and now the play, is the sharp satire of the writing, and Redman is basking in the delight of the script as he and his fellow cast members rehearse before the start of their current tour next week.
“The writing is so beautiful,” he enthuses. “The phrasing, the tempo and the use of language is wonderful.
It is a great role and it is hugely fun to do. I am massively looking forward to it.”
* Yes, Prime Minister, Salisbury Playhouse, April 2 to 6.