|Double-dealings in The Scapegoat. Pics: ITV|
ITV1: Sunday, 9 September, 9pm
Story: Teacher John Standing has just lost his job when his life takes a turn of bizarre and dangerous proportions. He meets a man in a pub-hotel who is his exact likeness. Johnny Spence is a charmer who wines and dines John, but when John wakes the following morning, Johnny has disappeared with John's clothes. Johnny's driver then arrives to take John 'home', which turns out to be a huge country estate…
The Scapegoat is based on a Daphne du Maurier story of swapped identity. It has an engrossing performance from Matthew Rhys in the dual role of brutish Johnny and sensitive John, who are the spitting image of each other, along with a terrific cast in Sheridan Smith, Eileen Atkins, Jodhi May, Alice Orr-Ewing and Andrew Scott.
|Sheridan Smith, Matthew Rhys|
The only problem is that you have to take the story with a huge dose of salt. Two men may look alike, but the idea that their speech, manner, hairstyle and everything else were so close that one of them could move into the other's family, make love to his wife etc, and no one would notice really borders on the daft.
Matthew Rhys enjoys himself, particularly as the evil Johnny
Doubles are fun, no mistake. Everyone from Stalin to Saddam Hussein's had one, though Charlie Chaplin's failure in a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest shows how hard it is to convince people you look like yourself. And the lookalike is a staple of literature, from The Man in the Iron Mask and A Tale of Two Cities to Coraline.
Johnny is a bastard, loathed by his family, with debts on his country estate. His sister hates him, mother tolerates him, he's sleeps with his brother's wife, among other mistresses, and is generally spiteful and nasty. What he wouldn't do to escape the mess of his life.
Daphne du Maurier
Hungover John is bemused by the offer of a lift from Johnny's chauffeur in their luxury car, and before he knows it he is at Johnny's crumbling stately home. It is amusing watching John bumbling around the house, seduced by the nobs' lifestyle and blagging his way into their world.
It is hard to get away from feeling that the central story is so contrived – John being so good, Johnny so rotten – but by the end of this 90-minute thriller when events turn murderous, the production and actors certainly cast du Maurier's suspenseful spell.
Cast: Matthew Rhys John Standing/Johnny Spence, Sheridan Smith Nina, Jodhi May Blanche, Eileen Atkins Lady Spence, Alice Orr-Ewing Frances, Andrew Scott Paul