Clique is a new drama written by former Skins writer Jess Brittain, which recently premiered on BBC Three and shows the lives of two first year students at ‘a Scottish university’ (Edinburgh) as they try to fit in with the mysterious elite of university life. However, whilst the premise sounds good the execution is merely an insult to students at the University of Edinburgh.
As a student at the University of Edinburgh I am incensed by the portrayal of my university and adoptive home. However, I digress and will return to this point later. Clique‘s story is of two long time friends who despite years of companionship find themselves pandering to a group of older, richer and more sophisticated students who are seeking to be the future leaders of the world thanks to the Solasta Women’s Initiative.
The initiative is meant to appear to viewers as exclusive and powerful but in fact comes across as a woefully thought out concept combining implicit sexism with sweeping ideas of entitlement. It is hard to tell if it supports the patriarchy or dislikes it, the motives of the group and the characters are confused and contradictory. Louise Brealey plays Jude McDermid, Molly in Sherlock, and heads this initiative as an Economics professor and one half of the brother/sister duo who created the Solasta initiative.
Brealey’s acting is impressive, displaying that her range extends from meek to powerful, but the cast seems at odds with the script. Uncomfortably contrived performances demonstrate that this cast is young and is very much ‘wet behind the ears’. However, the script writing is truly woeful and creates a show that lurches unnaturally and without discernible direction from happening to happening. Here is a good point to think back to Skins, a programme about dysfunctional and disconnected characters that worked in a way Clique fails to.
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Its strength lay in its ability to bring you closer to the characters, if not making you empathetic then certainly sympathetic to their lives. Clique does not have this. Holly McStay and Georgia Cunningham, played by Synnove Karlsen and Aisling Franciosi respectively, should be the characters we identify with as they try to fit in as first years with this older elite but we simply do not. Their lives seem of little coincidence to viewers and the other characters seem all the same; as I write this I am hard pressed to remember their names, faces and story.
Of course one concedes this is an experiment for BBC Three and that Jess Brittain does not want to make Skins for the rest of her life. But to be part of such a successful show that was a real lesson to television makers in what young people wanted then to write Clique seems strange.
The cinematography is excellent, this can be commended. The colours are striking, the picture is deep with detail and the costumes are fairly representative of students, if not a little too clean. Occasional shots of Edinburgh are done well; glossy screen grabs that could almost be lifted from the Visit Scotland adverts themselves. However, whilst the picture is nice the image given of Edinburgh University is not.
As a university it has been criticised for its elitism and high percentages of students from a private school education (over 30%) but to suggest it is this serious is an overstatement. Private cars and chauffeurs are not a common sight, nor are Clique’s strange mansion parties. Its more Uber and large, drafty Victorian flats here than anything. In fact what this programme does is propagate further misgivings about the University. Whilst cliques do have the upper hand, say in student politics, we are not creating the next generation of anti-feminist, drug addicted, chauffeur driven, sex pest, snobbish, cult-esque, super corporate people here.
In fact quite a lot of us are normal, some of us are even writers of reviews…
By Arran Byers