Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Mapp and Lucia

British television has produced some great series over the recent decades like I CLAUDIUS, ELIZABETH I, BRIDESHEAD REVISISTED, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, PERSUASION, CRANFORD etc, but up there with the very best, and - unlike the others - still endlessly rewatchable is the ITV series MAPP AND LUCIA, made in '85 and '86. There are 2 series (10 episodes in all - like FAWLTY TOWERS it didn't outstay its welcome) adopted from the "Mapp and Lucia" novels by E.F. Benson, depicting life in the genteel town of Tilling in the 1920s and 1930s. Here social life (where the well to do have domestic servants) revolves around marketing (daily shopping), afternoon tea parties, bridge games, evening dinners and general one-up-manship as practised by the two leading lights of Tilling society: wealthy widow Mrs Emmaline (Lucia) Lucas and Miss Mapp whose territory is threatened by newcomer Lucia, aided by her devoted cohort (and later husband) Georgie Pillson. Add in Lucia's Mozart recitals and Mapp's Art Committee and the stage is set for deadly rivalry...

The series perfectly captures the flavour of the books [6 in all], which are endlessly re-readable in themselves, with perfect period decor and settings, but the cast is a dream. Geraldine McEwan is the perfect Lucia, always seeking to put one over on Mapp - another of Prunella Scales' definitive roles (like her Sybil to Basil Fawlty), she perfectly captures Mapp's endless "carping and criticizing" as Lucia thwarts her yet again. Nigel Hawthorne is of course ideal as the camp, fussy Georgie. The other roles are played to perfection too, capturing the essence of Diva Plaistow, Quaint Irene, the Wyses with the Rolls Royce, the Padre with his fake Scottish accent, and blustering Major Flint who gives in and marries Mapp.

Whether its Mapp trying to get the recipe for Lucia's "Lobster A La Riseholme" and the ladies being swept out to sea and presumed lost, Lucia's garden fete, Mapp having to sell her beloved home 'Mallards' to Lucia or the Tilling ladies swopping residences for the summer (with crafty Mapp earning the most) and then the battle to become The Mayor of Tilling, endless amusement is guaranteed. Their servants too are ideally realised: Lucia's Grosvenor and Cadman, Georgie's Foljambe and Mapp's Withers. Also on hand are Rosalind Knight as the Wyse's Italian Contessa whom Lucia and Georgie must avoid (or they will be unmaksed as not speaking perfect Italian!), Anna Quayle as opera singer Olga Braceley and the wonderful Irene Handl as Poppy, the Duchess of Sheffied. It was filmed in the Kent seaside town of Rye (well worth a visit, where Henry James resided, as well as E.F. Benson). Series scripted by Gerald Savory and directed by Donald McWhinnie.

I had the series as two brick-sized double VHS packs, but its now a much slimmer dvd edition and should be an essential in every home. Au reservoir!

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