From gent to Prime Minister

Yes, Prime Minister.
Yes, Prime Minister.

Former Archer Graham Seed goes from country gent to Prime Minister of the country in a remarkable year.

Killing off the much-loved Nigel Pargetter in the long-running radio series certainly wasn’t Graham’s idea. But, however regrettable, there’s no doubting that it has opened up a few doors, not least finally making a leading man of Graham.

He’s now playing Prime Minister Jim Hacker at Chichester Festival Theatre in a new revival of the huge Festival 2010 success, Yes, Prime Minister. “This is a big climb for me,” says Graham as he contemplates stepping into the shoes filled by Paul Eddington on the TV screens and, much more recently, by David Haig and then Richard McCabe in the stage version.

“I have been for years very happy being a very good supporting actor. Now I am thrust into the limelight! This is the third cast and I was thinking ‘Can I do it?’ But then I started thinking that I am going to do it my way. I think I will have a lighter tone perhaps. I am working with another actor I enormously admire in Michael Simkins, so at least we will have cricket in common!”

Even so, it is a big push, says Graham who consoles himself with the fact that he can indeed do “nice but dim”: “But actually this is very different from the TV series which I have been watching on Youtube. Paul Eddington is brilliant, but it is very understated. There is a kind of nuance about him that he is out of his depth. David Haig (on stage, in the role) has got such energy and attack. I am quite glad that I did not see his performance. I don’t think that would have been helpful.”

After the traumas of the death of Nigel Pargetter - and Graham admits it wasn’t easy - the part is a dream one. Since Nigel’s demise, Graham has done a one-man show, appeared in an Emlym Williams, toured (including Chichester) with Nigel Havers and also picked up major awards for his long, long stint in The Archers.

“I have never won a prize in my life! I was one of those schoolboys that even in primary school never ever won anything, not even the three-legged race!”

The awards were certainly gratifying: “I put a lot into Nigel over the years. I tried to make him a real country man that had a warmth and humour about him. It would have been nice to have played him into his 70s and 80s. It would have been ideal for retirement. It was a safe little niche. I thought ‘That’s my pension!’ But things have changed. Now I am no longer ‘Graham - better nown as Nigel Pargetter - Seed’ on the billing for things like panto. I am now just Graham Seed!”

Age guideline 14-plus. Yes, Prime Minister runs from January 26-February 4.