Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Barrack-Jones – Yes, Prime Minister & the Mikado

Barrack-Jones back in the firing lines with some pithy comments on the stage version of Yes, Prime Minister and Opera Queensland’s G&S offering The Mikado.

I can remember once at the court of Henry VIII in the winter of '45, this rather spirited jester made some rather funny, no witty, and pointed, remarks about the king’s appearance.

They were brilliant.

A natural.

The 16th Century’s answer to Seinfeld.

A genius.

No a comic genius.

We all laughed heartedly, and no one more so than His Majesty, which created a really relaxed air around the palace and made us all feel as if we were getting on famously.

What a wonderful world.

An enlightened court.

A court ahead of its time.

The next time I saw the jester he still had a huge grin on his face, perhaps a few more tears, but sadly his head was no longer attached to his body as it went flying through the air into the River Thames.

This has always made me rather nervy when it comes to satire.

Having said that I must confess that Brisbane in the 21st century seems to be both relaxed and safe, at least until the next Federal Election.

So I was able to sit back and enjoy Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn’s theatrical lampooning of the British political establishment in the stage version of their celebrated TV shows Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.

The original TV stars – Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne - have sadly left planet earth while Derek Fowlds who played Bernard, has topped the 74 mark.

I have always particularly loved the remark made by top bureaucrat Sir Humphrey to his Minister, and later PM, that when he was out on a limb it was ‘courageous.’

This reminds me of Goodish King Harry noting that his jester was a:

man of infinite bravery whose head, but unfortunately not his shoulders, were above the courage of his foolish conviction.’

We all laughed with  a tear rolling down our cheeks – but without really seeing the joke – and none more so than the poor fellow whose humour tuned out to be too cutting edge for the times.

Yes, Prime Minister, which features some stout fellows – all bearing three names – in the principal roles including Mark Owen-Taylor (the PM), Tony Llewellyn-Jones (Sir Humphrey) and John Lloyd Fillingham (Bernard).

I have a strong affection for actors with three names as I used to have that exact amount until I became Sir Haulway Barrack-Jones, which gave me four sometime in the late ‘90s.

The performances not only bring the play into the present, but also add some farce in the second act worthy of one of the classics such as Charlie’s Aunt (which I remember with great affection also as I toured a regional version in the autumn of ‘92).

On a sad note I recall that the original Jim Hacker, Paul Eddington, was performing in HMS Pinafore here in Brisbane in ‘87 when he was diagnosed with the cutaneous T cell lymphoma which ultimately claimed his life.

Eddington once said, ‘you don’t have to believe in regicide to play Macbeth,’ and he was certainly a much more courageous man than his Hacker character appeared at times.

This new production of Yes, Prime Minister tackling the vexing problem of reconciling practical politics against moral imperatives.

In this version the morality concerns sex impropriety, but in real Australian political life there’s greater moral dilemmas to consider.

For instance is being in power more important than the life and death of others? In Australia I wonder.

I digress.

Now The  Mikado. Next posting. Just like the media we promise but take our time to deliver………

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