The surprising importance of Madonna to hit BBC conman show The Following Events...

 (BBC/Sister/Ludovic Robert)
(BBC/Sister/Ludovic Robert)

You might not expect a show about a con man to come with a banging Eighties soundtrack and a deep love for Madonna – but that’s all par for the course in The Following Events Are Based on A Pack Of Lies.

The newest show to hit the BBC this summer, it follows the story of fraudster Dr Rob Chance (played by Alistair Petrie) – and his ex-wife Alice, whom he abandoned decades ago, taking her family’s life savings with him as he went.

When Alice spots him by chance in Oxford one morning, she seizes her chance to fight back, and thus the stage is set for a cat and mouse game where Alice attempts to pin the blame on Rob, all the while wearing a fabulous, bright pink cape.

For Rebekah Staton, who plays Alice, the Queen of Pop (aka Madonna) apparently played an outsize importance in the way she visualised her character.

“Madonna symbolises for her that time before she met [Rob] when she had dreams and confidence and she wanted to do things,” Staton told a Q&A panel last month. “She admired Madonna. She wanted to be like Madonna… that’s all in the costume, and I love those brave choices.”

Her quest to emulate the pop icon involves the bright pink cape that Alice designs right at the start of the series, which she ends up wearing as she takes on the role of investigating Rob’s various crimes.

“The cape that she is designing... is for ‘a woman to take up space, who is confident, who is creative,’ and that’s the woman that she’s designing it for, but subconsciously, she has created the garment that she will need to go on the journey she’s about to tackle,” Rebekah Staton, who plays Alice, said.

 (BBC/Sister/Ludovic Robert)
(BBC/Sister/Ludovic Robert)

“I think this is the first time we see someone who’s quite so fearful in a cape. Completely unprepared, but she is a reactive character. That’s what I love about her. Rob is premeditated, deliberate, precise. A lot of planning goes into what he does. There’s no planning with what Alice is doing.”

In addition to the bright pink cape, a Madonna-inspired jacket does also crop up – while Alice’s dress sense and attitude steadily become more rebellious as the series goes on. The show also features an excellent Eighties soundtrack, featuring songs by Can, Laura Branigan, Bryan Ferry and Talk Talk. This backdrop proved to be a gold mine for the show’s director Robbie Gillop.

“I always really work with the script as closely as I can. And the great thing about this one - and we really wanted to do this - was [including] Madonna was in the very first scenes in the script. And I love Madonna,” Gillop said.

“Not only was it Madonna’s music, but a particular period [in] her Eighties era, the sort of Desperately Seeking Susan period that she’s in, [that we] brought to the costume as well.

“Yeah, there’s some great music choices in the script, like When The Going Gets Tough, [where we got] Al to sing along… across the whole series, we sort of tap into Rob’s 80s playlist, which [is an] emotive, kind of rock music that is really cheesy, but quite powerful.”

The Following Events Are Based On A Pack Of Lies is streaming now on BBC iPlayer and on BBC One.