The Ice Cream Girls, ITV, with Jodhi May and Lorraine Burroughs

The Ice Cream Girls on ITV, with Jodhi May and Lorraine Burroughs
Jodhi May and Lorraine Burroughs in The Ice Cream Girls. Pics: ITV

Rating: ★★★½ 

ITV: starts Friday, 19 April, 9pm

Story: Two vulnerable teenage girls are accused of murdering their schoolteacher in the summer of 1995. For seventeen years, the two girls go their separate ways, Poppy having been charged with the murder, while Serena has married a doctor and started a family. Now in 2013, their paths cross again.

ITV is flush with excellent crime dramas in April. During the week of 13 April it will be showing Scott & Bailey, Broadchurch will be nearing its finale and Endeavour and The Ice Cream Girls will be launching.

The latter is a three-part drama derived from a bestseller by Dorothy Koomson. The Ice Cream Girls is how the press dubbed the two teenage girls who were the only witnesses to a murder, Serena and Poppy having briefly been friends during the summer of 1995.

Holli Dempsey as Young Poppy, Georgina Campbell as Young Serena in The Ice Cream Girls on ITV
Old mates – young Poppy and Serena

Seventeen years later, Serena is still disturbed by a love affair she had then with her teacher, Marcus Hansley, a passion that ended in murder. Serena fled the seaside town of her youth and moved to Leeds, where she married a doctor and had a daughter.

Poppy and Serena are back in town 
As the drama begins, Serena moves back home with her family to help her sister cope with her ailing mother. She is on edge, haunted by the past.

It just so happens that Poppy is finishing her sentence for murder and is about to return home too. She is also plagued by what occurred all those years before, and wants to confront Serena and the tragic events that bound them together. Everyone thinks Poppy murdered the teacher, but did she? That’s the question hanging over their lives.

It’s a riveting opening to the drama, with equally fine performances from Lorraine Burroughs as a jittery Serena and Jodhi May as the young woman with a prison pallor who gradually starts to assert herself once she gets used to being on the outside again.

Martin Compston as Marcus in The Ice Cream Girls on ITV
Teacher with secrets – Marcus

Martin Compston as the teacher with a dark side
Serena is so on edge she races away from a cop who stops her for speeding. She has never told her husband about her involvement in the trial. Meanwhile, Poppy has to deal with moving back with her mother and hostile stepfather.

Martin Compston is creepy as the victim and teacher with a dark side revealed in flashbacks. Poppy closes in on Serena, visiting her unknowing husband at his surgery, and there are twists to come in episode two before the women come face to face.

It’s a skilfully made and atmospheric thriller about believable characters trapped by a vulnerable moment in their young lives. Full of surprises, it rounds off a terrific week for ITV drama.

Cast: Jodhi May Poppy, Lorraine Burroughs Serena, Holli Dempsey Young Poppy, Georgina Campbell Young Serena, Martin Compston Marcus, Bryan Dick Al, Dona Croll Rachel, Nicholas Pinnock Evan, Dominique Jackson Vee,  Sara Powell Fez, Eleanor Methven Liz, Owen Roe Jim, Kathy Kiera Clarke Marlene, Michael Mcelhatton Brian, Patricia Martin Poppy’s Gran, Gail Brady GP Receptionist, Dylan Tighe Poppy’s Lawyer, Laura Jane Laughlin Serena’s Lawyer, Caitríona Ní Mhurchú Sgt Reynolds         

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