The Angry Brigade were a British urban guerrilla group who in 1971 achieved brief notoriety with bomb attacks directed against Edward Heath’s Conservative Government and other targets deemed representative of the forces of reaction, including a beauty pageant in the Royal Albert Hall.

A dim memory even for those of us who were adults at the time, these left-wing zealots are restored to life in an exciting, well-crafted play presented this week at Oxford Playhouse by Paines Plough and Theatre Royal Plymouth. Its writer is James Graham whose mastery of plays factual was displayed two years ago in The House, which showed a minority government at work, and earlier this year in Privacy, focusing on a commodity seriously threatened in this digital age.

The Angry Brigade is a play of two halves, both of which stirred memories – whether by accident or design – of popular television programmes of the 1970s.

Micky-taking in Monty Python style is irresistibly recalled in the opening scene in which a silly-ass police commander, splendidly portrayed by Harry Melling, briefs young detective Smith (Felix Scott) about the new anti-terrorist squad he is to lead in hunting down the Brigade. “You know and I know that I am ‘here’, nudge, nudge (elbow) . . .but in fact, tap, tap (nose), I am not ‘here’, wink, wink (winks). Understood.”

The four-strong team is duly established consisting, besides Smith, of the droll DC Morris and policewomen Parker and Henderson (Patsy Ferran), the second of whom is seen to develop something of a tendresse for her married boss. Morris is shown to us by Mr Melling, who goes on to demonstrate impressive versatility in various other character roles, including a number on the wrong side of the law.

Quick change work is demanded, too, of Scarlett Alice Johnson who, besides Parker, plays three other females, including a bimbo beauty queen.

The play’s curious comic tone continues after the interval when we move from police control room into the rented flat of the four-strong brigade, with a loo open to view (“Who decided there should be walls?”) ludicrously at its centre. Action here at once recalls the world of TV’s Citizen Smith, with political spoutings of the sort that would not have disgraced his Tooting Popular Front.

Felix Scott again plays the brains of the team as the ideologue Bob, while Ms Ferran – in another neat parallel devised by the playwright – portrays another woman, Anna, who is driven as much by heart as head, to the eventual undoing of her group.

As depicted here, their actions are seen to be more idealistically well-intentioned than malicious. “Working together for a happier and more peaceful world,” which Anna said in her defence in court, are almost the last words we see displayed on the screen that dominates Lucy Osborne’s set, an adaptable construction composed chiefly of grey filing cabinets.

Though the quartet all got ten years, it should be remembered that they injured no one with their bombs. This differs markedly from the terrorist ideologues of today, who will naturally be called to mind by anyone watching this excellent play.

Oxford Playhouse until Saturday
Box office: 01865 305305,