It’s 1930 and the peace of the village of Tilling is about to be unsettled by the arrival of two outsiders. The duo: Mrs. Emmeline Lucas (Anna Chancellor) and her male companion Georgie Pillson (Steve Pemberton) are an odd pair but, it soon becomes clear, nowhere near as unusual as the people of Tilling itself. For this is truly a world of eccentrics, peopled by drunken majors, vicars with fake accents, intriguing lifestyle choices and of posh women who though ostensibly polite, rarely say what they actually mean. Queen of them all is Miss Elizabeth Mapp (a toothsome Miranda Richardson): a social tyrant in the guise of a benign village spinster. It is only a matter of time before she and her new tenant Lucas (known as Lucia) become locked in a battle of wills.
Do not be fooled. This may have been filmed in genteel village surroundings and screened in three parts over the Christmas period, but this is not gentle stuff. A clue should be evident in the fact that it was written by the League of Gentlemen’s Steve Pemberton adapting it from E.F Benson’s classic series of inter-war novels. He and fellow Royston Vasey resident Mark Gatiss (he plays the Major), also make up a stellar cast. There is undeniably a dark underbelly to this village too.
Although Blackadder II fans will already know she can play a tyrant called Elizabeth (she played Queen Elizabeth I as a dangerously volatile spoilt brat in the 1985 classic TV comedy), here Miranda Richardson (plus added teeth) excels as the megalomaniac Elizabeth Mapp. Thirty years after the well-received Channel 4 version of the stories (featuring Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales and Nigel Hawthorne), this new version is a triumph too.
Mapp & Lucia