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Revolting People

Radio 4
2000 (six episodes)

Following the great success of Old Harry's Game, writer-performer Andy Hamilton's next move was a rather curious venture into historical situation comedy.  Revolting People was set in Baltimore in 1770, in the run-up to the American War of Independence, and was co-written with Jay Tarses (presumably the source for most of the historical material), who also starred alongside a familiar supporting cast of Brits doing accents.  Tarses' extremely straight straight-man role cast him as Samuel Oliphant, a shopkeeper with a keen interest in self-preservation: with revolutionary sentiments on the increase and a seditious pamphleteer operating in the area, Oliphant finds himself playing reluctant host to two redcoat soldiers sent to keep an eye on the situation: ineffectual Captain Brimshaw (James Fleet, in what could reasonably be described as a 'James Fleet role') and Sergeant McGurk (Hamilton), a verminous multiple amputee and veteran of several noble massacres. 

To make matters worse, Oliphant's son Joshua (Tony Maudsley) is a lumbering giant with arms like tree-trunks and a similarly wooden brain; elder daughter Cora (Felicity Montagu) is about to be married to Ezekiel (Hugh Dennis), an insufferably pompous weights and measures clerk and zealous British loyalist; while younger daughter Mary (Sophie Thomson) is a passionate revolutionary who organises radical meetings in Samuel's back room -- but also carries a bit of a torch for Captain Brimshaw.  Under these circumstances, it cannot be long before Hilarious Consequences unfold... 

Revolting People was an interesting concoction, but its best material was still the kind of broad farce (usually brought in via the character of McGurk) which had appeared more prominently in Old Harry's Game.  The regular cast was completed by Susie Blake, as raddled old crone Mrs Arbuthnot, and Michael Fenton Stevens in a variety of roles. 

© JB Sumner 2000.  Created 30/4/00