Alison Steadman & Nigel Planer star in Radio 4 sex and farming sitcom

ExclusiveThursday 23rd June 2022, 11:42am by Jay Richardson

Mucking In. Image shows from L to R: Archie (Tony Gardner), Beatrix (Morwenna Banks), Cicely (Alison Steadman), Ben (Nigel Planer)

Alison Steadman, Nigel Planer and Morwenna Banks are reuniting for a sitcom featuring "sex, lies and agriculture" on a Gloucestershire farm, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

Written by Sue Limb and her daughter Betsy Vriend, Mucking In will air on Radio 4 from July 22nd and co-stars Fresh Meat's Tony Gardner and father and son actors Jonathan Coy and Jolyon Coy.

The six-part series is described as "an escape to the country and a jaunt though the eternal agonies of love and the complexities of family life. The seasonal rhythms and tasks of farming life give structure and atmosphere to a story about a family adapting to the return of an adult child in crisis."

Organic farmer Ben (Planer) and his musician wife Cicely (Steadman) run Dangerfield Farm in Gloucestershire - but they're not getting any younger and are feeling the strain of such a demanding occupation. Their daughter Beatrix (Banks) turns up unexpectedly, fleeing from London after a bust-up with her husband Archie (Gardner), with whom she runs a children's party company. She won't say much about the split and regresses into childish and disruptive behaviour. Archie, who is adored by his in-laws, turns up regularly with new ideas to try and woo Beatrix back. He always fails - yet inadvertently manages to fix the household's dilemmas.

Ben longs for Archie to take Beatrix back and leave him in peace, while worrying that his over-zealous American landlady, Natalie Truss (also played by Banks) wants him to retire. Beatrix definitely wants Ben to retire, to make life easier for her mum. Cicely just wants to make everybody happy, though she hasn't a clue how to do it.

Mucking In is the latest Radio 4 comedy from Limb featuring Steadman, Planer and Banks and produced and directed by Jamie Rix (Not Going Out, My Hero) for Little Brother Productions.

Gloomsbury. Image shows from L to R: Henry Mickleton (Jonathan Coy), Vera Sackcloth-Vest (Miriam Margolyes), DH Lollipop (John Sessions), Lionel Fox (Nigel Planer), Venus Traduces (Morwenna Banks), Ginny Fox (Alison Steadman). Copyright: Little Brother Productions

The cast first appeared together in Gloomsbury (pictured above), a rhapsody about bohemians, which ran for four series from 2012, followed by Byron And The Curse Of Sintra (2017), tracking the amorous adventures of the flamboyant Romantic poet and Skeletons In The Cupboard (2019), a tale of sibling rivalry between two sisters in their sixties.

"Sue Limb is my favourite writer," enthused Gavin & Stacey star Steadman. "Anything she writes, I feel happy with, and I love doing her work. Plus, when I was a child, I always wanted to live on a farm. I wanted to have a pony. I used to go down to the recreation field and fantasise that I was on a farm. So maybe my dreams have come true now!"

Planer added: "This is a situation comedy with great dramatic content too. When you first read it, you think, 'Oh, there's a load of jokes. This is just Sue doing her jokes.' But actually, as we're doing it, we're discovering hidden depths to it. It features a quite believable family and has actual recognisable things to hang on to. And people change somewhat during the course of the overall story. It's really enjoyable to do."

Limb and Vriend, who previously wrote together on Skeletons In The Cupboard, live on a Gloucestershire farm themselves, which "provided bucketloads of stinking inspiration!" said Limb.

"Farming is about life and death, and most farms are family businesses - and members of families rarely agree" she added. "There's plenty of material for rows and misunderstandings, lies, eruption and ultimatums."

Vriend adds: "We're incredibly lucky that Alison, Morwenna and Nigel seem up for acting parts we've written for them, so we have written parts we can imagine them delivering.

"They are brilliant, and such a treat to write for. The new actors joining us were so wonderful too: Tony Gardner, Jolyon Coy and Jonny Coy brought such sunshine to the lines, it was frankly a joy to witness!"

Mucking In's executive producer is Clive Brill and the commissioning editor for the BBC was former Radio 4 comedy commissioner Sioned Wiliam.

Party's Over. Image shows from L to R: Drew (Kiell Smith-Bynoe), Christine Tobin (Ingrid Oliver), Jones (Justin Edwards), Henry Tobin (Miles Jupp), Natalie (Emma Sidi). Copyright: BBC

Meanwhile, Radio 4 has also recorded a second series of Miles Jupp's ex-Prime Minister sitcom Party's Over.

Reprising his role as Henry Tobin, Britain's shortest serving and least successful former Prime Minister, the cast also includes Justin Edwards - with whom Jupp is touring a new stage version of classic Ealing comedy The Lavender Hill Mob from October - Starstruck's Emma Sidi and Ingrid Oliver (Defending The Guilty). Party's Over is written by Paul Doolan (Bloods, Cuckoo) and Jon Hunter (The News Quiz, Keep Calman Carry On).

In the first episode, airing on July 29th, Tobin again struggles to stave off his irrelevance at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Alone. Image shows from L to R: Morris (Bennett Arron), Louisa (Kate Isitt), Mitch (Angus Deayton), Ellie (Abigail Cruttenden), Will (Pearce Quigley). Copyright: ABsoLuTeLy Productions

Also returning, for a fourth series, is Alone, Moray Hunter's sitcom about five single, middle-aged neighbours living in flats in a converted house in North London, with Angus Deayton, Abigail Cruttenden, Pearce Quigley, Kate Isitt and Bennett Arron all reprising their roles.

Mitch (Deayton) and Ellie (Cruttenden) have started a relationship, and almost finished it a number of times as well, but for now they're together and trying to make the best of things. Will (Quigley) is trying to avoid Morris (Arron) who has decided Will needs company because Mitch is seeing Ellie. Morris causes turmoil when he adopts a stray cat, which is then found dead in suspicious circumstances and Louisa finds (Isitt) love with an unexpected partner and reveals her diva side when she cleans for Ellie.

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