Three E.F. Benson novels about upper-middle-class British people in the 1920s and 1930s, vying for social prestige and “one-upmanship” in an atmosphere of extreme cultural snobbery, known simply as Mapp and Lucia, has begun filming at Lamb House in Rye, East Sussex, the original inspiration for Benson’s fictional seaside town of Tilling. Based on Benson’s novels about social rivals Miss Elizabeth Mapp and Mrs. Emmeline ‘Lucia’ Lucas, the 2014 re-boot comes from the mind and pen of Steve Pemberton (The League of Gentlemen, Psychoville, Whitechapel) who has adapted the beloved stories that will co-star his cohort from the bizarre world that was The League of Gentlemen, Sherlock‘s Mark Gatiss as Major Benjy. The all-star cast also features Pippa Haywood (Brittas Empire, Scott & Bailey) whom you might also remember from her portrayal as the disgraced Miss Bunting in several episodes of the first series of Mr. Selfridge.
Pemberton genuinely seems blown away at his good fortune of filming at Lamb House. “I’m just pinching myself every day, that we are here in Rye in Benson’s house and garden, but also that I’ve not only had the opportunity to play this character (Georgie) but adapt the scripts as well!
Filming has begun with a target transmission date of Christmas 2014 on BBC One. Hopefully, a PBS broadcast in the States isn’t too far behind. Here, Miranda Richardson (Mapp) and Anna Chancellor (Lucia) stroll through the gardens of the National Trust property during filming. With a smile, Pemberton has a warning for viewers. “Benson’s deplorably funny novels and cast of subversive, eccentric characters have been entertaining readers for over 90 years, and I hope to bring Tilling thrillingly to life. But be warned: this is no jolly period romp. This is a series about a war. May the worst-behaved woman win.” One can only hope there’s a little League of Gentlemen-esque nature to Pemberton’s adaptation.
The original Channel 4 series ran back in 1985-86 and starred Prunella Scales as Mapp, Geraldine McEwan as Lucia with Sir Nigel Hawthorne as Georgie and Dennis Lill as Major Benji Flint.