30 November 2009

The Harpoon

The Harpoon is a British radio comedy which was broadcast to listeners of Radio 4 between 1991 and 1994. It enjoyed three excellent four-episode series, and an extremely good Christmas special, as well as the odd live appearance on one or two BBC Radio variety performances. The Harpoon was written by the well-known Peter Baynham and slightly-less well-known Julian Dutton, who were joined by Susie Brann, Mary Elliott-Nelson, Bryony Pritchard and Alistair MacGowan to perform the series. It was produced by Sarah Smith.

Each episode of The Harpoon is about half an hour in length, allowing a couple of minutes for the link to the next programme. The programme's setting varies considerably as different episodes focus on periods from Victorian times to the 1950s, and the series is written in such a way as to 'pretend' to be a printed magazine, 'The Harpoon', described as 'a magazine for young and old'. There's a feeling of adventure about the magazine, with story serials and tales of derring-do interspersed with historical titbits and how-to guides. It has that Sherlock Holmes narrative style to it, mixed in with the pomposity of early British public information films. To stick with the magazine metaphor, each sketch is separated from the next by the sound of a page turning, and the only slightly brutal editor opens with his 'Looking Ahead' section, often whilst killing various creatures, and closes the magazine with the letters page. The whole thing is performed with the most atrocious accents: dreadfully exaggerated Cockney is used for 'common folk', while only the best received pronunciation is saved for the upper class editor and narrators.

Interestingly, The Harpoon was recently broadcast on BBC 7. A quick Google search for 'radioarchive the harpoon' will bring up both of the original series. Blessings be upon bittorrent...

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