Excitement mounted as the lights dimmed for the screening of Mapp and Lucia at Rye’s community centre last Friday [November 14]. There was an extra frisson for those of us townsfolk who were cast as supporting artists, and taking a bow before the show added to the tension. I saw Marie from Forget-me-not and over there sits Rita from the deli. Emotions rose as the film started and in the first few minutes I got a glimpse of my left shoulder. Not long after that I caught sight of the side of my, apparently very grey, head. Another few minutes and there was no doubting who was lifting the barrels off that cart.
On the screen there was a clear full-face shot of Clare Kalis who lives in the Mint. This augured well, I imagined, for my scene with Miranda Richardson. It was at a refreshment stall in a garden fete where she, imperious in summer silk, donates a bag of figs and I, sweltering it must be said in several layers of linen, remove a plate of sandwiches. And as the story moved on to the Lamb House garden I could hardly contain my anticipation, or my imagination. I wondered if the camera had properly captured my pensive yet determined decision to go for Tilling’s favoured dressed crab, rather than the more commonplace ham. Would I appear raffish, as I hoped, or roguish? As debonair as Benson’s Mr Wyse, perhaps?
But these fancies were idle compared to the coming realisation that the magic between me and Miss Richardson would shortly set the screen alight. The smouldering looks over the china teacups when my furrowed brow questioned the cool welcome of her twinkling blue eyes as she gazed at some potted shrimp, that flicker of puzzlement as we demurred over a slice of Victoria sponge. I could see the headlines: “New BBC screen duo light up the screen”. Forget Bogie and Bacall, or even Georgie and Lucia – the sensational pairing of “Mc and Miranda” would soon have Hollywood beating a path to its door.
And look, what joy, there is majestic Miss M donating her parcel of fruit, looking deeply into the camera and, er, gliding away. Hold on. Some mistake here. I don’t appear to be on screen. I’m nowhere to be seen. The obvious questions raced through my mind. Where are those seductive glances exchanged over a bakewell tart? What happened to the flashing looks as she let her fingers hover daintily over a cheese vol-au-vent? Has some fool of a director cut the most scintillating partnership since Brad and Angelina?
A nudge in the ribs and a whispered “Look, Tone” brought me back from my crestfallen despondency. And lo! There I am walking across the garden of Lamb House, like Major Benjy in a straw boater. I watch myself on screen tucking into sandwiches like there’s no tomorrow and with a determined elegance that can best be described as aplomb. My career has taken a swift turn: forget the romantic hero that never was and welcome the go-to guy for nibbling on a bridge roll. The director deserves a Bafta.