The early days of Ann Summers Party Plan is brought to life in a witty new ITV drama
Take four women all struggling to find happiness and fulfillment, add a touch of glamour, gutsy humor and a desire to improve their lot in life and Brief Encounters is born. Set in the early '80s, the six-part series introduces Steph, Pauline, Nita and Dawn as unlikely entrepreneurs who begin to sell exotic lingerie - to the dismay (and often delight) of their loved ones.
"Brief Encounters is gutsy, emotional, warm and surprising. Like the real Ann Summers saleswomen, through their camaraderie our women discover hidden strengths and an ability to come out fighting no matter what life throws at you. As wives, mothers and businesswomen they unleash talent and ambition - and they blossom"
- Executive Producer Arabella McGuigan
Episode 2 - Synopsis
Two weeks later… Steph and her new found friends, Nita, Pauline, Hellie and Widowed Linda are catching up down the pub. Barry and Lisa enter the pub. At the end of the evening Barry asks Steph to hold an Ann Summers Party at Lisa's engagement do on Friday. Shocked, Steph balks at the idea. To save her friend, Nita volunteers instead. The next day Pauline and Steph are having a cup of tea as Steph, tries to convince Pauline to start demonstrating.
Steph is at home and her landlord turns up for the rent money – she's no money and few options. She looks her Ann Summers paying-in book on the counter and battles with a thought. She needs money now.
Kieren is given the opportunity to some quick money by old mate, Dougie. With a new baby on the way Kieren is tempted. Worried she might lose the baby she now feels she might want, Nita can't do Lisa's party. Steph steps in as she needs the money. Steph turns up at Lisa's party with Dean she doesn't have a babysitter. Barry offers to take Dean to the cinema with him. Steph, ever the professional, sets up Lisa's party for her.
At the cinema, Barry leaves Dean sitting waiting for the film whilst going to buy popcorn; he returns and can't find Dean anywhere. At Lisa's house, an ashen faced Barry returns and Steph's panic rises as she realises Dean isn't with him. PC Johnny arrives to help find Dean.
An agitated Kieren is sitting in the car as he waits outside the bookmakers with Dougie and their friend Fat Mike. Kieren is driving fast down the high street and suddenly hits something. Dougie tells a conflicted Kieren to keep on driving, leaving devastation in the road.
"An unpromising pitch on paper, perhaps, but this first episode was a revelation: frank, funny, and full of heart... It was as if Victoria Wood had rewritten 'The Full Monty'. 'Brief Encounters' was drama by women, about women – but not just for women."
"As a depiction of a very British sexual revolution, it was as soapy as scented bubble bath, as light as gossamer knickers (that's enough, ed). And, like a 1982 playlist on shuffle, the era-reminding hits kept on coming: Human League, Modern Romance, a moody climax of Ultravox's 'Vienna'... Now that's what I call an ITV drama."
Meet the Characters...
Steph Played By
An unlikely entrepreneur, Steph comes across as shy and somewhat tongue-tied but inside her is a deep desire to achieve more. The party planning job and her new friends ignite an ambition inside her that she didn't know she had.
Generally speaking, do women talk more frankly and openly than men?
I think that's true. What I love about this story is that female relationships are extraordinary. Women naturally, throughout history, bond together. They're stronger when they're together. That's why we talk a lot more. We get support from each other.
Can you tell us about your research for the role?
We went for a really lovely brunch with two of the original party planners and we asked them lots of questions about what it was like. It revolutionised what you could do if you were a mother, married or you wanted to be educated. It gave those women the freedom to work and get financial independence.
Nita Played By
Nita is the down-to-earth, fun, energetic, confident mother of four whom you'd expect to become a party saleswoman. She supports Steph and gives her the confidence to take control of her life.
How would you describe the relationship between Nita, Steph, Dawn and Pauline?
Ordinarily, under any other circumstances, these four characters would never have been friends. This is the joy of their friendship, they found each other through this common interest in making money and starting a business and once they met, they realised they have more in common than they think.
How would you sum up the appeal of the series?
I think these are characters you will want to let into your home and you will want to become friends with them. They are worthy friends for anybody to get involved with.
Dawn Played By
Dawn has a bubbly, outgoing disposition, a lust for life and is a bit of a flirt, but she is not always as confident or as brash as she appears. The buzz of earning cash with the other women gives Dawn the incentive to finally realise her dreams.
What research did you do before filming began?
We were lucky enough to meet some ladies who had worked for Ann Summers in the 1980s and they told us lots about the parties. I had heard about them but never been to one. I might hold an Ann Summers party after this. I definitely think I could do it now. With my friends and family. I feel like I've got a good knowledge.
How would you sum up the appeal of the show?
I love the fact this is a drama with four female leads but also because the men have really good parts too. It doesn't have to be one or the other. It can be both and it can be great. That was one of the other reasons that drew me to this. It's a complete team.
Pauline Played By
Skilled in the art of 'keeping up appearances', Pauline is the prim, apparently uptight, social hostess wife to Brian, the much-respected local butcher. She lives as his other half, hosting dinners and playing Bridge. Never one to suffer fools gladly, Pauline has the courage of her convictions and a big heart.
Pauline's first party includes displaying a large sex aid. How was that to film?
The 'Extending Hermit' with remote control. It was extraordinary. All the men in the crew went very quiet.
What were your first impressions of Brief Encounters?
I thought it was very wittily written. Comedy that makes me laugh now is difficult to find. It had a naivety and freshness about it that I liked. I also liked the fact it covered all these different, disparate women brought together.
Fay Rusling and Oriane Messina, writers and creators tell us why they chose Sheffield as the location for Brief Encounters.
It was always important to us that when watching Brief Encounters you felt you were in 1982 rather than looking from the outside back at it. We knew that design, costume and make-up were going to play key parts in creating that story for us and our amazing crew went above and beyond to achieve an incredible level of authenticity. It was also a time of economic instability and social change and we wanted the series to have a real sense of place. It was important to us that we root our 6 characters in the real world. Sheffield provided us with diverse and cinematic locations for our characters to inhabit. We had a wonderful time filming in Sheffield despite the snow in January, the wind tunnels and pouring rain.