IT’S a credit to the pulling power of Cheat that, though we can see from the outset that things are going to end badly, it’s hard to pull your eyes away. As sly student Rose turns lecturer Leah’s life into a car crash, we can’t help but become rubberneckers.
The set-up of this four-part thriller, screened on consecutive nights this week, is deceptively simple. Rose (Molly Windsor), a slacker student with a degree in social ineptitude, vaults to the top of the class with a first-class dissertation. No wonder sociology lecturer Leah (Katherine Kelly, below) sniffs a plagiaristic rat.
These are muddy waters, though. Leah is in touching distance of tenure at Cambridge, Rose’s dad is a university benefactor.
Should Leah just let Rose slide by rather than rock the boat? Obviously no, or we wouldn’t have much of a story.
On the surface, writer Gaby Hull asks us to ponder the importance of academic principles, but that would be a dusty book on a library shelf. Powering beneath the surface is a stronger tide built on jealousy and revenge.
Cheat’s cleverest, well, cheat, is having its two protagonists facing off in what looks like a prison visiting room. But who is the visitor and who is the prisoner? It’s a canny hook on which to hang a stalker-type story where, initially, it’s easy to pick sides. Windsor’s Rose is the very picture of evil disguised as wide-eyed innocence while Kelly’s Leah, though she’s cheating on her nice hubby, appears to have the moral high ground.
And there’s the rub: who is the real cheat here? On this evidence Cheat, more than anything, is an examination of the danger of leaping too quickly to conclusions.