The men from the Ministry are still making us laugh, three decades later
Michael Fenton Stevens is no stranger to satire with appearances in KYTV (which pilloried satellite television) and its predecessor Radio Active, Drop the Dead Donkey (which lampooned TV news) and Trevor's World of Sport, which had a go at sports PR. Plus he was one of the voices in Spitting Image and a founder member of the Hee Bee Gee Bees which had a number one hit in 1986 with The Chicken Song.
His work in satire puts him in good stead for his latest role – as the beleaguered PM Jim Hacker in Yes, Prime Minister, a stage version of the classic BBC series.
Believe it or not, Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay's TV comedy first aired (as Yes Minister) in 1980.
The Whitehall farce was revived for the stage three years ago and proved to be such a success that a new TV series is on air and it has returned to the stage for a UK tour.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
As with all the best satires, Michael says there's an uncanny parallel with real-life events.
"It's amazing how many lines resonate in the script which was written three years ago. It's almost as if they could predict what would happen.
"They wrote it with the idea of a coalition government and Jim Hacker thinks everyone is out to get him. It's brilliantly well written."
In Yes, Prime Minister, the coalition government beds in but with little hope of harmony and Jim Hacker is struggling to keep international troubles at bay.
To add to squabbles over the collapsing euro and the push for greater austerity, he is now faced with a moral dilemma caused by dubious diplomatic demands. Meanwhile, Sir Humphrey is in favour of greater austerity for ordinary people but not for senior civil servants.
"Jonathan and Antony are experienced writers. They know how to get a laugh," says Michael. "It's not just about people falling over, they like word play, particularly for Sir Humphrey – the way he's written is so skilful. It gives you the impression he is not saying something, when he is. Jim Hacker is there as a figurehead, but the important work is done by Sir Humphrey and his people.
"The PM spends his entire time making suggestions. He's someone who is living on the edge – at any moment it could fall apart.
"Sir Humphrey is thinking about his retirement with a lovely pension and jobs in the city.
"I play the loose cannon jumping at any idea to try and survive. And I occasionally get the upperhand."
Playing opposite Michael is Crispin Redman as Sir Humphrey who is known as Judge Richards in Law & Order: UK.
Yes, Prime Minister certainly pokes fun at politicians, not that they really need any help. Michael admits that he's always been interested in politics.
"My leanings are fairly left wing," he says. "It's quite good fun playing this role, because we don't actually know which party Jim is from. So he can go for any policy, whether it's right wing or left wing. He thinks if people like it, let's do it.. He's almost willing to do anything and persuade himself it's for the better.
"I've always been interested in politics, but this is not just about politics. You can really understand when people just go for the consensus."
Michael insists that this play is far from dry and dusty.
"It's a great show. When they initially did it, there were one or two elements people didn't like. The politicians were being asked to procure an under-age girl for a foreign diplomat... now they're being asked to provide three women for an orgy."
Yes, Prime Minister will be at Hall for Cornwall from February 19 to 23 February.