Jess Brittain – 'I had a slightly weird and discombobulated time at university'

TV interview: Jess Brittain – 'I had a slightly weird and discombobulated time at university'


Former Skins writer on her new Edinburgh-set TV drama, Clique, about the sinister side of student life

Representations of university life have made it onto the small screen before. The Young Ones, Campus and Fresh Meat have all taken the comedic route in analysing the joys (or otherwise) of flatsharing, studying or lecturing. But the BBC's online-only, Edinburgh-set Clique goes a very different way of exploring the ups and downs of higher education, focusing on how impressionable young women are drawn into a shady world of elitist groupings, seemingly controlled by a charismatic professor.

Lifelong pals Holly (newcomer Synnøve Karlsen) and Georgia (The Fall's Aisling Franciosi) have made it through freshers week unscathed and come immediately under the seductive influence of their brilliant economics lecturer Jude McDermid (Sherlock's Louise Brealey). But while Holly remains sceptical about McDermid and the older students who gather in packs around her, Georgia is far more prone to their leader's magnetic presence.

Created by former Skins writer Jess Brittain, it's clear that while the glamorous pool party of episode one might not ring true with everyone's experience of student life, there is plenty about the drama that will chime. 'It started with having a slightly weird and discombobulated time at university myself,' recalls Brittain. 'We're repeatedly told as teens that uni will be the best years of our lives, so when you find yourself lost and wrong-footed, it's almost shameful: you're supposed to find "your people" at uni. The attraction of those who seem to have it all tied down and the feelings that then throws up, is something that has hung around in my head since I graduated.'

Ultimately, Brittain was keen to write a female-heavy story and found that a study of companionship being tested within the psychological thriller genre was an ideal fit for that. 'I'm endlessly fascinated by female friendship and the centrality it has in a young woman's life. It means everything and can go so wrong so quickly.'

Clique starts on BBC iPlayer, Sun 5 Mar, from 10am.