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A very Mapp and Lucia Summer

In the chicken thread below, we got talking about Mapp and Lucia — the books, not the chickens — and it dawns on me, I’m not sure I’ve ever posted about Mapp and Lucia the books. Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Mapp and Lucia describes a series of six (or more, depending if you count short stories) novels about two middle aged, middle class English ladies in the Twenties. They wage deadly warfare on one another by way of gossip, dinner parties and musical evenings. If you have a taste for bitchy catfights, you’ll love these books (if not, they’ll probably bore you silly).

The author, E.F. Benson, wrote shit tons of books, but Mapp and Lucia are his greatest hits. They’re set in Tilling, which is explicitly modeled on the town of Rye. So closely modeled that a cottage industry sprung up leading people on walking tours of Rye, pointing out landmarks from the books. Benson lived in Rye and was its mayor for a while; his house is at the center of the Mapp and Lucia cycle.

Fun fact: Benson’s father, Edward White Benson, was Archbishop of Canterbury. He had six children and they were all homosexual. I read that somewhere, but Wikipedia says two of them died young, so I’m not sure how gay they had time to be.

Mapp and Lucia has been dramatized many times, most notably in the Eighties in a series starring Geraldine McEwan and Prunella Scales (remember her, Fawlty Towers?).

Welp, the BBC was in town for six weeks this Summer filming a new version, due to be released at Christmas. We live close enough to have turned up to watch the filming a few times. (Rye is used pretty often in film, because it’s gorgeous. Monuments Men was filmed locally last year, f’rexample).

This being the modern BBC, I’m sure they’ll eff it up, but I absolutely can’t fault their sense of set and costume. They took over Market Street and transformed it into the Market Street from the books (it’s mostly residential now, but it was the main shopping street in Benson’s day). It was fascinating to watch the prop people at work; the attention to detail was fantastic. They graveled the road so the markings wouldn’t show and put detailed false fronts on many of the buildings. One day to put it up, a week to film, a day to take it down, like they’d never been.

The picture shows a row of fake plastic pig carcasses hanging from the Town Hall. Guys kept spraying them down so they were shiny wet. I really, really wanted one.

They hired locals for extras and rented several houses for interiors. I felt for those extras when they bundled them up to film the Christmas scenes on a hot July night, fake snow and all.

We’re great M&L fans, if that’s not perfectly fucking obvious by now. I’ll let you know how the BBC manages to ruin these great stories with cheap politics.

sock it to me

October 8, 2014 — 6:53 pm
Comments: 17