I follow in great
Actor in stage recreation of TV political comedy great
WHEN your mother is one of the grand dames of British theatre it’s only inevitable you will follow in her acting footsteps, right? Wrong, according to Chris Larkin, who said his famous mum Dame Maggie Smith – star of Harry Potter and Downton Abbey – almost went out of her way to discourage him. “She made sure we didn’t do any acting as children. We went to schools that didn’t do theatre, so she actually made sure we weren’t going to,” said Chris. “So it was very much my own choice. I think she wanted to make sure if we didn’t want to do it, there was no pressure from that side either.” And pursuing his passion for acting – “it just sounded like it would be fun” – has helped Chris carve a career on stage, one that is bringing him to His Majesty’s next week with the stage version of Yes, Prime Minister This updated version of one of the best-loved sitcoms in British TV history is penned by original writers Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn. It sees Prime Minister Jim Hacker, his cabinet secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby and private secretary Bernard Woolley back in the fray. And Chris, who plays the hang-dog and beleaguered Bernard said fans will love it. “The characters are so endearing, that’s why people come,” said Chris, adding it
“Audiences loved them”
has been playing to packed houses around the UK. “It’s a pleasure doing something which the audience find funny, which of course this show is. “I don’t think I’ve ever done a show which the audience finds so funny and embrace so wholeheartedly ... it’s a real privilege.” Chris said that audiences can expect to find the same characters as in the original TV series, but they have been brought up to date. “Sir Humphrey and Jim and Bernard are still there, but it’s a much more modern Yes, Prime Minister,” he said. “It is set right now and Jim Hacker is the Prime Minister of a coalition government after a recent election and having to deal with the problems of a cabinet of people who all seem to want his job. “Also, I think it’s modern in terms of the characters are all a bit older and ever so slightly, not necessarily darker, but a bit harder.” Of course, the original 1980s series helped turn the characters and the actors who played them – Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne and Derek Fowlds – into icons of British TV. Chris said: “I think audiences genuinely loved Paul, Nigel and Derek. “In terms of the history of television, they are three really enduring characters that hit a spot with the public. “They love that relationship between Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey. It’s kind of up there with Rodney and Del Boy.” So how does Chris feel about stepping into such an illustrious and wellestablished part? “What was nice was that from day one Jonathan (Lynn), who directed it as well as wrote it, said you are not those original people, you are entirely your own person. “I cast you in these parts and I want you to play them. So there was absolutely no pressure to do what the original actors did. “I don’t think you would ever get anywhere near that. “They did it on telly, we are doing it in the stage version and it’s our own interpretation of those characters.” It is clear that Chris has a tremendous fondness for Bernard and is relishing the role. He said: “Bernard’s function is the servant with two masters, trying to find the middle way to make progress.” Chris said Bernard is best summed up in a quote from the TV series where Jim asks whose side he would be on if the chips were down. “Bernard replied ‘My job is to make sure that the chips stay up’. “That’s Bernard down to a T and I love playing him.” This stage version of Yes, Prime Minister is winning new fans around the country – and Aberdeen is the furthest north the show will go, said Chris. “I’m looking forward to that. It is so beautiful up there and I’m looking forward to taking time out and enjoying the scenery.” And Chris should make the most of our fresh air and countryside – because Yes Prime Minister is heading back for London’s bustling West End after the UK tour. No doubt his mum’s proud of him.
“Servant with two masters”
ORIGINALS: Derek Fowlds, Nigel Hawthorne and Paul Eddington in Yes, Prime Minister.
FAMILY: Chris’ mother is Dame Maggie Smith.