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Two Hundred Leagues from Paris


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by Colin McLaren.
Narrated by Peter Barkworth.
With Russell Boulter as Charles Barbaroux, Garard Green as Laurent Lautard and Edward de Souza as the Comte de Mirabeau

While crowds stormed the Bastille in Paris, the voices of the Marseillais were raised in protest at the price of bread - at first.
See panel, left

The Militants of Marseilles
The Revolution of 1789 was not confined to Paris alone, but erupted throughout France. Colin McLaren sets the scene for Wednesday's re-creation of revolutionary events in the ancient port of Marseilles.
What brought the citizens of Marseilles out onto the streets? Mainly their own independent spirit, which flared up at any threat to their privileges. They resented the power of the king's representative in the region and his influence over their city council. They detested, too, the way they were taxed, by a system which favoured the rich and oppressed the poor. Bad harvests and bitter winter brought these grievances to a head at the beginning of 1789.
Led by a group of young 'patriots and with the support of the redoubtable Comte de Mirabeau. the citizens challenged the established order. They had almost secured the reforms they wanted, when the government intervened. Military rule was imposed. followed by mass arrests, secret, trials and imprisonment in the Chateau d'If. But the patriots held out and, as events in Marseilles were overtaken by those in Paris, they triumphed. The nine-month struggle turned many of them into campaign-hardened militants. Their fervour would place Marseilles in the forefront of the Revolution. Their song would become its anthem. The story is long and complex, lurching from drama to farce. The testimony is heard of those who were there, taking part or looking on. The words come from their letters, speeches and memoirs and from the pamphlets they published, full of the heady rhetoric of revolution.
Two centuries on, the rhetoric is unchanged, the consequences no less bloody. Every decade has its own young 'patriots', convinced that oppression will yield to protest. As I write, echoes from the streets of Marseilles sound forlornly in Tiananmen Square.


Writer: Colin McLaren
Music: Roger Limb of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Director: Judith Bumpus
Narrator: Peter Barkworth
Charles Barbaroux: Russell Boulter
Laurent Lautard: Garard Green
The Comte de Mirabeau: Edward de Souza
Lord Gardenstone/Comte de Caraman: John Samson
Etienne Chompre: Donald Gee
Mathieu Blanc-Gilly/Commissioner d'Andre: Geoffrey Whitehead
Antoine Bemmond-Julien/Toussaint Pascal: Philip Sully
Francois Rebecquy: Joe Dunlop
Francois Granet: Ken Cumberledge
Youth: Susan Sheridan
Visitors to Marseilles and citizens: Donald Gee
Visitors to Marseilles and citizens: David Goudge
Visitors to Marseilles and citizens: Christopher Scott
Visitors to Marseilles and citizens: Ian Targett

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