Britishness itself is “no help at all” in attracting an audience to a play, according to Mark Goucher, producer of the stage adaptation of political comedy Yes, Prime Minister, which is currently touring Australia following a run in London’s West End.
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But this country’s reputation for creating theatre helps British plays succeed abroad, says Goucher. “There are only two markets for theatre work to be showcased and developed – London and New York. People look to London to find out what is going on and to license our shows,” he adds.
Yes, Prime Minister has made a more successful transition than most plays do when they go to Australia, says Goucher. He attributes the production’s positive response to the popularity of the original TV show, and the fact that Australians can recognise and laugh at the “bureaucratic pomposity” of the British system of government.
He stresses that certain changes were necessary, even to a work that has the cultural cachet of Yes, Prime Minister. When the production transferred, it took on an Australian cast and director. And while they can’t “mess around with the product”, Goucher says “there are some things in the script that probably don’t translate terribly well to Australia, so they have been allowed a little bit of licence”.
However, the setting and subject matter are still essentially British. Goucher also insisted on keeping the same branding in the marketing materials as for the play’s London run. Advertising agency aka, which worked on the West End marketing, was opening a Sydney office just as the play arrived in Australia, so Goucher persuaded the producers there to retain its services.
Licensed productions are now planned in Malta, Croatia, Hungary and Israel, as well as further European countries. Talks are ongoing about runs in Los Angeles and New York.
The key ingredients for Goucher in marketing Yes, Prime Minister in Australia and creating a showcase for further foreign tours have been an appreciation of the local market, but also faith in the product itself.