1 9 7 6 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes
Adapted from (Margaret) Rumer Godden’s 1972 novel The Diddakoi, the only major change apart from a linear re-ordering of events was regarding the title.
In the TV serial, little Kizzy Lovell (Vanessa Furst) is not diddakoi (a half-gypsy) but a full Romany. This simplification aside, the serial remains the story of orphaned traveller Kizzy and her trials and tribulations as she fights to be accepted by village gorgios (the gypsy word for those who live ‘in brick’).
As Kizzy’s young teacher, Miss Blount (Meg Ritchie), says: “Children can be so cruel,” and at its core, this is a story of bullying and intolerance.
In the course of events, Kizzy’s guardian, Gran, dies, and her gypsy caravan home is burnt down (in accordance with gypsy custom).
Kizzy then catches pneumonia, is threatened with being put into care, bullied and physically attacked and sees her beloved horse, Joe, die of old age.
Kizzy is no shrinking violet victim, however, but an ambivalent heroine who gives as good as she gets. Given to tantrums, she pouts and sulks her way through six episodes.
Hot-tempered, almost feral at times, she is quick to lash out or even scratch and bite. She spits during a juvenile court appearance (viewers’ parents complained about the poor example being set).
Kizzy’s bad behaviour brought some grit to what is overall a sweet story but with some tough moments. A frightening sequence in which Kizzy is attacked by a posse of bullying girls and sickeningly cracks her head open on a brick wall was edited for maximum impact and is well remembered by many who saw it.
Kizzy‘s themes include comments on the care system, tradition versus modernity, middle-class snobbery and above all, tolerance for – and indeed celebration of – difference and cultural diversity.
The sheer misery Kizzy undergoes demands a happy ending – sentimental and unlikely it may be, but who would begrudge the battling little Kizzy a little happiness?
The Wagon | What Shall We Do with Kizzy? | She Can’t Stay There! | Into Care | No Escape | The Bonfire