I only discovered the joy of Mapp and Lucia several years ago and for the life of me cannot understand why it took me so long. I posted about it, here, and since then have read and re-read the books multiple times, the Tom Holt series and the excellent trilogy by Guy Fraser-Sampson who appeared at the Felixstowe Book Festival in its first year and gave a wonderful and hilarious talk on the Benson menage.
Once I was hooked then I went in search of the Channel 4 series on DVD starring Prunella Scales as Mapp and Geraldine McEwan as Lucia. Not forgetting of course, the simply marvellous Nigel Hawthorne as Georgie. I saw this series when the newness of the books was in my mind and I had no preconceptions at all about casting and setting. Well it seemed to me well nigh perfect and cannot imagine it being done any better. However, I was delighted when I heard that the BBC was going to bring a fresh dramatisation for our delectation and delight and, along with other Mapp and Luciaphiles, awaited its arrival with eagerness.It was being filmed in Rye and the BBC had obtained permission to film in the actual Benson/James house so that was a plus. Then came the announcement of the casting and that is when I felt the first stirring of apprehension. I also assumed that Richardson would be Lucia and Chancellor Mapp but no, it was the other way around and I simply could not see it. Hold your horses Elaine and wait and see I told myself.
I have now watched the three episodes and enjoyed them. Sort of. The supporting actors were excellent, particularly Mr Wyse and Irene and Mark Gatiss excellent as Major Benjy, Rye looked simply gorgeous and the whole thing was done in superb style and looked wonderful. But and there is a but for me. I remember thinking that Anna Chancellor was not very good in the otherwise perfect Pride and Prejudice some fifteen years ago, the Firth version is all I need to say, and drawled and rather over acted and I can honestly say that I find her still as boring as I did then. By the third episode I was warming up to her a bit but still do not think she is right for the part.
But the worst of it for me is Miranda Richardson as Mapp. I think she is awful and yes I do mean awful. Over acting to the nth degree and pulling the most dreadul faces all the time, she has taken Prunella Scales as her model and has ratcheted it up by one hundred per cent. I know that in trying to uncover Lucia's lack of Italian and that she has feigned an illness to avoid meeting the contessa, Mapp was determined to triumph over her rival, but she was almost manic in these scenes.
However, many of the reviews are at odds with my thoughts so perhaps I have just got it wrong.....
"Richardson and Chancellor were spot on. Chancellor’s sub-zero smile would have repelled a hungry puma. Richardson’s gritted teeth took on a life of their own as she suffered slight after slight at the hands of her crimson-lipped assassin"
There has been much discussion, agreement and disagreement in the Mapp and Lucia group over on Facebook but the concensus seems to be that Miranda Richardson has got it wrong. If any of you have seen this latest series I would be really pleased to hear what you think of it.
One thing though, it has made me even more determined to get to Rye this year.