Echoes of Louisa

Echoes of Louisa

1981 - United Kingdom

Gail Renard's unusual ghost story set in modern and Victorian times, Echoes of Louisa was a somewhat darker-than-usual tale in the children's television drama strand.

The tale begins in 1876 with The Homecoming, an episode which sees the return of Antony Hallam (Jeremy Nicholas) 15-year-old Louisa's brother, an Army Captain who has resigned his commission because, in his own words, he has dallied with a lady who dallied with the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). In doing so he has brought disgrace on his family causing them to be ostracized by London Society and forcing them to move into the Rutland countryside where they now reside at Thornaby Hall. However, upon his return, Antony strikes up a friendship with another girl, Allegra (Lucinda Bateson) who was brought to Thornaby to be Louisa’s companion. Antony and Allegra’s friendship sends Louisa into a jealous rage.

The story then moves forward to 1981. Allie Burr and her family are on holiday in Rutland in a dilapidated cottage miles from anywhere where Allie’s father (Bernard Horsfall) is studying local history. Whilst exploring the grounds of Thornaby, Allie hears laughter coming from the ground's deserted stables. Allie finds it difficult to explain why Thornaby Hall has attracted her attention so strongly. When the family accompany her to look around it, she is puzzled by her own reactions to the house. It seems to her that she has been here before.

Echoes of Louisa

At first, she believes the Hall to be haunted, but Allie, an exact double of Allegra (a dual role for Bateson), soon becomes witness to the true-life events of 105 years ago as Louisa sets out in a cruel and pitiless manner to rid herself of the rival for her brother's affections. Ultimately, Louisa is doomed to fail, and this sometimes-disconcerting tale ends with her falling to her death. 

Recording of the six episodes took place at the end of 1980 in studio and OB tape. Producer David Dunn told The Stage that although he hoped the serial would be of interest to boys, he expected that because episodes were based on two pre-adolescent girls, the appeal to girls would be stronger. "It was recorded in the autumn when leaves were falling," he said, "and has a certain atmosphere of sadness. It is very much about loneliness."

Lucinda Bateson, the daughter of a former radio actress, Ann Totten, began her career at the age of 12. At 15 she joined the Italia Conti stage school and immediately after was signed up for the first episode of Scottish Television's serial The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Her first leading role on television was in the serial Watch All Night and this was quickly followed by Metal Mickey in which she appeared as the hot-tempered teenager Hayley. After Echoes of Louisa, Lucinda made one more appearance on television in the US series Hart to Hart, before leaving our screens permanently.

Like Bateson, Amanda Kirby, who played Louisa, also appeared in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie which followed appearances in South Riding and I, Claudius. She had appeared in another teenage drama, The Clifton House Mystery, in 1979, and following Echoes of Louisa she went on to play prominent roles in a number of television drama series. In 1983, she played the role of Louise Kendall in the BBC adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel and appeared in a 1988 episode of EastEnders before taking an extended break from acting. She returned to the stage in a 2018 production of Widowers' Houses by George Bernard Shaw staged at Shaw's Corner in Hertfordshire.

The writer Gail Renard, who later adapted her original screenplay for a book, is a Bafta award-winning television writer and performer. Her work includes BBC, ITV and C4 comedy and children’s series, as well as books, films and stage plays. Her TV work includes a 1978 adaptation of Enid Blyton's Famous Five for Southern Television and a writer for Chucklevision. Among her published books is John Lennon: Give Me A Chance, based on her true story of sneaking into John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous Bed-In for Peace to get an interview for her school newspaper.

Published on July 19th, 2023. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.

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