Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
Cast; Miranda Richardson, Anna Chancellor, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss, Pippa Haywood, Nicholas Woodeson, Gemma Whelen, Poppy Miller, Felicity Montague, Paul Ritter, Jenny Platt, Susan Porrett, Maxine Roach, Joanna Scanlan, Simon Startin, Harish Patel, Frances Barber, Gavin Broker, Soo Drouet, Andy Godfrey, Sophie Leigh Stone, Peter Mould.
The English and their manners, it is a wonder at times that we haven’t tied ourselves up in knots and caused a type of inner combustion with the subtle one-upman, or indeed in the case of the three part television series Mapp And Lucia, one up-womanship that so leads to conflict with our neighbours and dearest friends. It is possibly the modern etiquette attached to an English Civil War, if we cannot get rid of a Government taking the country apart, lets kick down the social ladder.
Adapted by the great Steve Pemberton, Mapp and Lucia brings E.F. Benson’s look at the games a generation played in the often high stakes of outdoing a social rival, with great effect to the television and whilst it may feel a very odd thing for certain 21st Century viewers to understand the complexity of the delicate weaving of threads and acknowledged achievements, supposed or otherwise. It nevertheless is as honest an appraisal of the between wars state of the country than perhaps anything else outside of a Pathe newsreel or the Frost Report’s post-war satirical and biting, I Know My Place sketch.
What should be highlighted immediately as a piece of absolute joy in Mr. Pemberton’s adaption of Mapp and Lucia is the way he carefully constructs the imagery of the country after the First World War and like E.F. Benson, manages to turn it into a piece of critical value. The study of a certain way of behaviour that in many cases has never gone truly away, the interest in seeing how a subjected supposed class of person might over act with their forced mannerisms and politeness when being outdone in life.
For this, the casting was perhaps as crucial as the delightful scenery. In the brilliant Miranda Richardson, as the suddenly under-valued Miss Mapp, and the superb Anna Chancellor as her rival Miss Lucas, this was a match too good to miss and certainly in Ms. Richardson, the pleasure of seeing her once more in this type of essential leading character may be seen as one that was refreshing and very much of value.
With Steve Pemberton and fellow League of Gentlemen cohort Mark Gatiss adding a “normal” slant on the appearance of male behaviour in Britain at that time and the excellent Gemma Whelen, Nicholas Woodeson and Pippa Haywood all adding greatly to the overall tone of the three episodes, Mapp and Lucia is a joy to immerse yourself into, it just might make you reconsider the way in the 21st Century we can be seen as having as being less in tune with society than we believe we are.
Ian D. Hall