Richard takes on an iconic role for big tour

RICHARD McCabe, one of the stars of Chichester Festival Theatre’s 2010 summer season, joins the cast of one of the theatre’s 2010 smash hits for its national tour.

Richard will play Jim Hacker in Yes, Prime Minister - opposite Simon Williams as Sir Humphrey Appleby - when the show goes on the road for five months, taking in venues including Brighton and Southampton.

“I just thought it was great fun when I saw it in Chichester,” says Richard whose CFT 2010 credits were Bingo and then the double bill The Real Inspector Hound and The Critic.

“They asked me to do it, and I thought why not! The prime minister is the driving engine in the play. I think you have got to get rid of your notions of the 80s TV show for this one. What (creators) Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn have done is create a Yes, Prime Minister for the 21st century.

“It lulls you into a false sense of security and you are thinking, yes, you know this, but then it turns out to be something completely different. In the play, Jim Hacker is a much more modern take. He is quite a manic character and gets increasingly desperate to save his political existence. It turns almost farcical in the second half. There is certainly a lot of energy.”

Which links it nicely to riotous production of The Critic last year in which Richard so hilariously played the playwright whose play literally tumbles down around his ears.

“That was fantastic to do. It was one of those rare things where the audience comes out feeling completely uplifted - and the audience got the chance to see us in two different plays and two different roles.”

The Critic was a production which brought the house down, the play within the play ending in disaster: “It was exhausting, but really rewarding. I used to love seeing the set collapsing.

“With some of the people in the front row, you would see the shock. It was genuinely heavy. We used to have to have an usher sitting there to be on hand.

“Originally the idea was that it would fall over Buster Keaton style with someone standing where the hole would fall, but in the end, it was so heavy and dangerous that it was not allowed.”

Before that, Richard appeared alongside Patrick Stewart at the start of the season in Bingo, a piece depicting Shakespeare’s fight to protect his land in his final days.

“I would say that it is one of the great modern plays. It is an absolute masterpiece. (Playwright) Bond has thought it out so carefully and cleverly that as an actor he gives you absolutely everything you need.”

n Yes, Prime Minister is at the Theatre Royal Brighton from Thursday February 3-Saturday 12 February and at the Mayflower, Southampton from Tuesday, March 15-Saturday, March 19.