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‘Witty, fast-paced, packed with humour’ return of former Prime Minister Jim Hacker

REVIEW: I’m Sorry Prime Minister – I Can’t Quite Remember at Cambridge Arts Theatre

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“Every time one goes up in the political world one sinks a little lower.” Now in his 80s, former Prime Minister Jim Hacker has come to this sad conclusion – and he is about to sink even further. As the play opens – with a glorious set of a middle-class house and garden by Lee Newby, we see the now Lord Hacker as the master of Hacker College.

An Oxford College has been named after him – after he raised the funds to build it. But sadly, he has made too many unfortunate remarks. His attitudes are still in the 1980s. The college authorities have asked him to resign.

I’m Sorry Prime Minister – I Can’t Quite Remember is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 25

I’m Sorry Prime Minister – I Can’t Quite Remember is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 25

He’s being thrown out on his ear.

He has an idea though. There is one person in the world who might be able to help him. He calls for his old adversary, Sir Humphrey Appleby.

I’m Sorry Prime Minister – I Can’t Quite Remember is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 25

I’m Sorry Prime Minister – I Can’t Quite Remember is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 25

As the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Administrative Affairs, Sir Humphrey, the civil servant’s civil servant –always persuaded Hacker (in the end) that whatever he had set out earnestly to do was unwise.

Hacker would eventually come round to Sir Humphrey’s view, finally give in and retreat. Sir Humphrey was a past master of how to get out of a tight spot.

I’m Sorry Prime Minister – I Can’t Quite Remember is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 25

I’m Sorry Prime Minister – I Can’t Quite Remember is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 25

It’s a thin hope now though. Poor Sir Humphrey has been living in St Dymphna’s Home for the Elderly Deranged.

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Thus opens the deftly written swan song for Jim Hacker, hero of the British political satire Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister written for television in the 1980s by Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay. Lynn has written and directed this stage version as Lord Hacker’s “final chapter”.

Christopher Bianchi as Hacker and Clive Francis Sir Humphrey give immaculate performances recapturing the gestures, delivery, and demeanour of the two sparring partners, who now find themselves alone in a world they hardly recognise.

I’m Sorry Prime Minister – I Can’t Quite Remember is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 25

I’m Sorry Prime Minister – I Can’t Quite Remember is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 25

Humphrey can still deliver impossibly long reasoned arguments, but he might not remember by the end the point he had set out to make at the beginning.

There is strong support from Michaela Bennison as Sophie, Hacker’s patient young carer, an Oxford graduate who represents modern life – and also from Andy Hawthorne as Sir David Knell – the college spokesman who comes to tell Hacker he has to leave his comfortable free digs.

I’m Sorry Prime Minister – I Can’t Quite Remember is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 25

I’m Sorry Prime Minister – I Can’t Quite Remember is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 25

The play has the crisp writing you expect from Jonathan Lynn and the nice little pokes at government. “If there is a God,” says the elderly Sir Humphrey: “Why is he running the world like the Home Office?”

This is a witty play, fast-paced, packed with humour and hugely enjoyed on its opening night by a full house at Cambridge Arts Theatre. Their light has not dimmed.

I’m Sorry Prime Minister – I Can’t Quite Remember is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 25

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