While I was sitting near the exit of the theatre where we had just seen a performance of “Yes Prime Minister’, a teenager, about fourteen years old I would guess, said to his family that he liked the main actor best. Thinking about it, I began to wonder in truth, who the main actor was.
The play was a bit of a surprise package and not like an episode of the television series that would have been screened for U.K domestic amusement. Having seduced the audience into the deft light humorous touch that we might have expected, the darker machinations of government, power and presentation, soon came into play. With a double-edged oil deal presenting, with one or two additional unattractive strings attached. The characters, including a woman political adviser, began to lose their moral compasses, rationalising it as patriotic action. Comparative morals and double standards became a point of discussion….”do you really think your morals are superior to anyone else’s?” asks an ambassador, as the quicksand can almost be heard sucking the pillars of Government down. On this theme, a damage limitation exercise moves to centre stage, involving all the main actors.
The content of the play was bang up to date with current financial social and political issues. Bernard, a Civil Servant, presented as the fall-guy, the mediator, the one who works hard to retain some level of moral compass when all around are losing theirs. Of course, there was the character of Sir Humphrey Appleby,The Senior Civil Servant, providing his eloquent and elegant linguistic soliloquies. The Prime Minister, (also a major role), fenced with Sir Humphrey. He also had to constantly analyse Bernard’s reactions in Bernard’s role as Sir Humphrey’s assistant. At the finale, all the spotlights were on the Prime Minister, who was on television and stage trumpeting the ‘successes’ of his statesmanship.
Who, then could the boy have been referring to as ‘the main actor’, (bearing in mind that the description is now an androgynous one)? It was unlikely to have been the ambassador, whose two appearances on stage were relatively brief but morally meaningful. It certainly was not the one woman, a political adviser, who was obviously in a supporting role. The three men all had equally demanding and major roles but yet, just one of these actors was perceived to have been ‘the main actor’.