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Mapp and Lucia (1985-86)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Mapp and Lucia (1985-86)
LWT for Channel 4, tx. 14/4/1985 - 31/5/1986.
10 x 60 min episodes across 2 series, colour.
DirectorDonald McWhinnie
Production CompanyLWT
SponsorChannel Four
ProducerMichael Dunlop
ScriptGerald Savory
Original AuthorE.F. Benson
MusicJim Parker

Cast: Geraldine McEwan (Lucia); Prunella Scales (Mapp); Nigel Hawthorne (Georgie); Denis Lill (Major Benjy); Mary McLeod (Diva); Cecily Hobbs (Quaint Irene)

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Emmeline Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp vie for supremacy in the social affairs of the village of Tilling-On-Sea during the 1930s.

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E.F. Benson's adventures of Emmeline 'Lucia' Lucas and 'Georgie' Pillson span six novels, published between 1920 and 1939. The television series Mapp and Lucia picks up the story at the halfway mark and across its ten episodes dramatises the final three books in the sequence. This focuses on their move from Riseholme in the Cotswolds to Tilling in Sussex and so continuing an old feud with Elizabeth Mapp, who had the temerity to steal Lucia's catchphrase 'O reservoir' (instead of 'Au revoir') and pass it off as her own.

An arch, high camp comedy series filmed on picturesque locations in Rye (Benson's home and the basis for the fictional Tilling), it benefits greatly from the excellence of its three lead actors. Geraldine McEwan, then best known on television for playing the title role in The Pride of Miss Jean Brodie (ITV, 1978, another story about an independently-minded woman with a love of all things Italian), gives a performance buoyant with sly looks, orgasmic squeals of pleasure and low moans of mocking disapproval. This is contrasted with Prunella Scales' dowdy and lugubrious Mapp, while Nigel Hawthorne makes the bewigged, faintly ludicrous and very closeted Georgie highly endearing for his utter devotion to Lucia. Even though Lucia and Georgie eventually marry each other, this is less about romance and more about attaining power and position in Tilling society; in fact the two are only really passionate when playing their Mozart duets together at the piano.

In one episode, when it looks as though Lucia and Georgie's lack of any real knowledge of Italian (beyond a few stock words and phrases) is destined to be exposed, she furiously complains that, "it is ridiculous that we have to break ourselves of the habit of doing something we cannot do". In many ways this sums up the heart and soul of the series's appeal, which is as much about dressing up and role-play as it is about social one-upmanship. The reason Georgie and Lucia remain sympathetic, if not exactly likeable (unlike Mapp), is that despite their gross conceit, snobbery and effete demeanour, they are having great fun in their play-acting, but will occasionally let the mask slip in private if necessary.

They are essentially aging children with an independent income, and the enjoyment derived from watching their antics is akin to that of observing youngsters creating increasingly complex games purely for their own entertainment.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. Introductions (4:43)
2. Bedtime (4:07)
3. Old friends (3:23)
Complete episode - Part 1 (19:50)
Part 2 (15:48)
Part 3 (13:21)
Hawthorne, Sir Nigel (1929-2001)
McEwan, Geraldine (1932-)
Scales, Prunella (1933-)
Channel 4 Drama