Eye For Film >> Movies >> Mapp And Lucia: The Complete Series (1985) Film Review
Mapp & Lucia is thrilling and brilliant to a connoisseur of the comedy of manners. If you delight in subtle nuance, biting wit, highly stylised characterisations, gorgeous costumes and art decor sets, this is a series for you.
My teenage son, used to more obvious forms of in-your-face humour, dished out with alacrity on the box every day, found it a bore, but my daughter, three years younger, was enthralled.
Mapp & Lucia is not obvious and requires intelligent, concentrated viewing to pick up on the sumptuousness, subtlety and sheer humanity of everything there is to watch. It is not to everyone's taste and I feel it is more specialised in its appeal, which is high praise indeed, when one thinks of it in the context of Big Brother and other such current, amazingly popular, boorish offerings on the small screen these days.
Prunella Scales has the difficult role of the tweedy, hale-and-hearty, not desperately cultured Mapp, a perpetual gel from a good county family. She combines this flustered rusticity with intelligence and wit and her desperation to be queen of the village, when pitted against the urbane and polished Lucia, is the source of much of the humour.
Geraldine McEwan, as the refined, cultured, erudite Lucia, is like a serene cat, dealing with Mapp as an irritating, clodhopping mouse. She controls events most of the time, while Mapp lurches from crisis to crisis in perturbed fluster.
Why this series works, I think, is because the characters are flawed human beings and the seemingly perfect, imperturbable Lucia is overcome on occasion by the devious workings of Mapp, who also shows her vulnerable underbelly and makes us love her in spite of ourselves. After all their adventures together, including the just-believable sailing into the sunset on Lucia's upturned kitchen table, one gets the feeling they become pretty fond of each other, too, although they would never admit it.
Nigel Hawthorne brings the highly eccentric Georgie Pillson alive as a living, breathing human being. His fastidiousness in all things, including his amazing ideas on how to talk, dress, eat, play the piano (he always takes off his rings), wear a toupee and have the ability to emote in all situations could, in lesser hands, have produced a rather sad caricature. However, Hawthorne's Georgie, despite all this and a constant obsession with needlework, loves Lucia with a devotion that brings tears to the eyes.
The flipside of good comedy is tragedy, and when Lucia disappears with Mapp on the kitchen table, Georgie's warm, unselfish and loving nature is revealed when he refuses to move into Lucia's house, juxtaposed against the amazingly self-centred, dim, buffoon-type character of Major Benjy (Denis Lil), who takes over Mapp's home with alacrity and without a backward glance.
The marriages that take place between the main characters are also worth a mention. Lucia and Georgie, as best friends, are emotionally and culturally compatible and on an equal footing, but agree on a sexless, stylised union. This is in stark contrast to Major Benjy, who in spite of his buffoonery, exudes masculinity and sex, and shares a double bed with the earthy Mapp, who plays his little woman.
Mary MacLeod as Godiva "Diva" Plaistow gives a creditable supporting performance as one of the village set and butt of Mapp's rather vicious tongue, but I found Cecily Hobbs as "Quaint" Irene Coles irritating in the extreme, sometimes fastforwarding to get past her rather overworked characterisation. James Greene as the Reverend Kenneth Bartlett is also irksome, but the characters of Mr. Algernon Wyse (Geoffrey Chater) and Mrs Susan Wyse MBE (Marion Mathie) are well acted. The servants Ken Kitson as Cadman, Lucinda Gane as Foljambe and Cherry Morris as Withers give well rounded performances.
Life in a conservative, rural English village in 1930 is truly realised in the brilliant costumes and sets of this series. Lucia's clothes are an example of the sumptuous decadence of the art deco age and contrast sharply with poor Mapp's tweedy daywear, or over-the-top and never-getting-it-quite-right evening creations.
Georgie's foppishness in the face of stark conservatism is also a delight. He and Lucia arrive as exotic birds in a rather bland village and succeed in shaking the residents up and out of themselves. And again, their humanity is revealed in their almost slavish admiration of the newcomers.
I feel this is a must-see for all lovers of subtle television, of which there is sadly a dearth in this day and age. The humanity of the characters, in spite of their best efforts to subsume their faults in diligently following preordained modes of behaviour, shines through and I felt myself falling in love with them and sad when it all ended with Au Reservoir.Reviewed on: 04 Jul 2006