Old Baggage, following a suffragette’s adventures after the vote is won, is being created by comedy geniuses Vicki Pepperdine and Joanna Scanlan.
Last year, Lissa Evans’ comic novel Old Baggage was published to rapturous reviews. Set in 1928, the year that all women in the UK received the same voting rights as men, the bestselling book follows Matilda Simkin – a dedicated suffragette who no longer knows what to fight for.
Now, a TV adaptation of Evans’ novel is in the works. British comedy legends Vicki Pepperdine and Joanna Scanlan are working on transforming Old Baggage into a comedy television series through their production company George & George, in association with Alan Partridge producer Baby Cow.
“Lissa’s grasp of character and her immaculate feel for women’s history made this property irresistible to us as actors and now producers,” said Scanlan and Pepperdine, Deadline reports.
“The book made us laugh, it made us cry and it kept us up reading till three in the morning. We can’t wait to start to develop it for long form television.”
Old Baggage explores a subject not often considered in dramatizations of the women’s suffrage movement: what happened after the vote was won. (A poignant recent episode of Call The Midwife featured an elderly former suffragette, but such depictions are relatively rare.) For Old Baggage protagonist Matilda, who is well into middle age by the time all British women are granted the vote, the hard-won victory also leaves her floundering for a sense of direction.
By 1928, the suffrage movement had become splintered and factionalised. Property-owning women over 30 had been given the vote in 1918, and the campaign for votes for all women was no longer as explosive as it had once been. The Women’s Social and Political Union, the leading suffrage organisation founded by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, was dissolved in 1917, and leading suffragist Millicent Garrett Fawcett retired as president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1919. In the late Twenties, only the most committed women were still pushing for universal suffrage.
Matilda is one of these women. In an interview in December, Old Baggage author Lissa Evans said that middle-aged women who’d been involved in the suffrage movement at its height “would have been regarded as absolute dinosaurs” by 1928.
“I really wanted to write about what it would be like after you’d done something dramatic, trying to make sense of your life after you’d done something extraordinary,” she explained.
“It’s a little bit like a feminist born in the Sixties and how they’re viewed now, and, for me, [Old Baggage] was a way of exploring an aspect of this subject that hasn’t been covered before.”
A broadcaster it not yet attached to Old Baggage, and it’s not yet known whether Pepperdine or Scanlan will play Matilda in the series. The two women previously worked together on the BBC Four sitcoms Getting On – a satirical comedy set on a geriatric ward in an NHS hospital – and Puppy Love, which follows two women at dog walking classes on the Wirral.
The Thick of It star Scanlan will soon appear alongside Emma Thompson and Jameela Jamil in the film adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s novel How to Build A Girl, while Pepperdine currently provides the voice of Jericha on the brilliantly filthy satirical advice podcast Dear Joan and Jericha.
Not listened to Dear Joan and Jericha yet? Here’s why you should do so immediately.
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