Alice Seabright’s new BBC1 drama Chloe is a masterfully controlled, on-a-knife-edge thriller set in the world of social media. Seabright, an ASFF alumni who went on to direct episodes of Netflix series Sex Education, writes and directs the show, which stars Erin Doherty as Becky. Or is it Sasha?
Becky lives in the Bristol area with her mother (Lisa Palfrey), who has early onset dementia. She works a drab desk job and seems to derive sole pleasure from scrolling through the social media feeds of Chloe (Poppy Gilbert), a red-haired young woman with a seemingly perfect husband (Billy Howle).
Seabright retains a lot of mystery in the first of these six episodes. Becky, it seems, has a connection to Chloe from the past. Even the recent past. A police officer rings her up, asking why Chloe twice phoned her mobile. It turns out that this bright young thing took her own life recently. There are flashbacks to earlier times too, but everything feels elusive, like memories slipping through the mind.
For all her failings, Becky is very adept and quicksilver, especially in social situations. She is also a masterful bluffer, able to arrive at a party and convince guests that they’ve met before. It’s one of the strongest aspects of the show, as Seabright demonstrates just how easily people are fooled for fear of succumbing to social embarrassment.
Soon enough, Becky is reinventing herself as Sasha, convincing those she meets that she has worked in an art gallery in Japan. The aim is to penetrate Chloe’s inner circle, which she does via some nifty Googling and a lot of lying, especially to Chloe’s gullible friend Livia (Pippa Bennett-Warner) It’s both impressive and disturbing, but wholly convincing.
At the forefront of the show, Doherty is superb as Becky/Sasha. The actress who first came to our attention as Princess Anne in The Crown melts into her role, as both the downtrodden Becky – who can turn on a dime – and the sprightly Sasha. Credit too is due to the costume team for her striking outfits when she’s out mingling with the great and the good. Above all else, Seabright has created an impressive character study, one that will keep you watching agog at what Becky will do next.
Chloe is available on BBC iPlayer now.
Words: James Mottram