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Imogen’s Face (ITV 1998, Samantha Janus, Lia Williams)

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Imogen’s Face, from the pen of A Bouquet of Barbed Wire and A Sense of Guilt author Andrea Newman, examines the relationship between two sisters – one blessed, one luckless – and the men in their lives. It explores the themes of beauty and envy and the mayhem caused to people’s lives by hidden resentment, guilt and passion.

Eponymous ‘heroine’ Imogen is one of those people upon whom the gods have smiled. She has the face of an angel, dazzling charm, brains, success, a comfortable, moneyed lifestyle, a beautiful house and adoring husband, and a spontaneous, effervescent nature that draws everyone towards her.

Her sister Amanda is less fortunate. Although a few years older, she has lived in Imogen’s shadow all her life, constantly denigrated by her irascible father and cosseted, hypochondriac mother. A primary school teacher, she is trying to make a success of her relationship with new boyfriend Steve, who has moved into her south London flat, and who is the first man she has really been able to trust. Amanda and Steve decide to try for a baby, but while Imogen became pregnant effortlessly, Amanda doesn’t find it so easy.

Imogen, meanwhile, although having it all, still wants more. Four months pregnant with twins, she begins a passionate affair with Cavan, a wealthy antiques dealer and veteran of three previous marriages. She asks Amanda to help conceal her infidelity from her husband Ben by providing alibis for her meetings with her lover.

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Sisterly love finds itself stretched to breaking point as Amanda, who has feelings for Ben herself, reluctantly colludes. But the breaking point arrives – explosively – when Amanda inadvertently betrays her sister’s affair to Ben.

The casting of the two sisters was crucial. Two actresses were sought who resembled each other but represented very different qualities; one extrovert, flighty and charming and the other quiet and introspective.

The choice was Lia Williams as Amanda and Samantha Janus for Imogen. The two felt an instinctive trust from the start of shooting, which turned out to be essential. ‘You need to believe at the beginning of this drama that nothing could separate these two, nothing,’ says Samantha Janus. ‘Playing scenes when we were arguing was shattering – and I almost didn’t want to do them as I didn’t want to lose our real-life relationship!’

Lia describes Imogen’s Face as portraying ‘how parents can mess up their children and how the children carry those emotions through into their adult lives, feeding them into their relationships with each other and the people they love.

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‘Andrea Newman shows a real understanding of the way in which many people spend their adult life wondering why it doesn’t live up to the childhood fantasy,’ Lia says. ‘I’m sure the emotions will be instantly recognisable to many people.’

production details
UK / ITV – Yorkshire – Tyro / 3×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 2 – 16 July 1998

Writer: Andrea Newman / Music: Colin Towns / Production Design: Chris Edwards / Producer: Simon Passmore / Executive Producers: Steve Clark-Hall, Eileen Quinn / Director: David Wheatley

cast
Samantha Janus as Imogen
Lia Williams as Amanda
George Anton as Steve)
John Bowe as Cavan)
Richard Lintern as Ben
Claire Bloom as Elinor
Michael Byrne as Patrick

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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