The BBC’s hit comedy Mapp and Lucia, based on the novels by EF Benson, follows two small-town busybodies in the 1930s. “Lucia is dominant, snobbish and phoney,” says Lucia actress Anna Chancellor, in unseen footage taken behind the seen while shooting in Rye. “I like being a double act,” she continues. “I love it,” adds Miranda Richardson, who plays Mapp in the series.
Lucia and Mapp go head-to-head in a humorous battle for social glory in the fictional seaside town of Tilling. Benson wrote the humorous stories when he lived in Lamb House (now managed by the National Trust), and drew inspiration from the town of Rye while penning his stories.
“One of the chief pleasures we’ve had in doing this job is getting the access to Rye, the properties all around the church square, and especially to get access to Lamb House,” explains series writer Pemberton (below). “One of my favourite days was filming in streets by Lamb House. I was sitting in the garden by myself, in the amazing garden at the back of Lamb House and this is where he would have sat when he was writing these characters and stories.”
Meanwhile, Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss, who plays Major Benjy in the series, believes the historic Sussex town is the spitting image of Benson’s Tilling. “He didn’t base Tilling on Rye, it is Rye,” exclaims Gatiss, “You can actually follow your way around his description. It was fantastic to go there and identify all the different houses.”
Gemma Whelan, who stars as the free-spirited, bohemian Irene Coles in the show, met locals who could find doppelgangers of Benson’s characters in town. “A lady came up to me in the cafe and said ‘I can name the current Mapp and Lucia in the town now,'” she jokes.
Mapp and Lucia is available on BBC iPlayer until January 28.