Film review: London Road

13:11 13 June 2015

London Road

London Road

Archant

The National Theatre’s acclaimed production about the 2005 Ipswich serial murders is an original but testing film adaptation, says Michael Joyce.

London Road, being a film adaptation of a stage production of a verbatim musical about a community caught at the centre of the real life serial killing of five women by Steven Wright in Ipswich in 2006, is an awkward proposition to sell to an audience. It’s a difficult concept to grasp; and once grasped it’s a difficult concept to think of as being anything other than a really terrible idea. It isn’t, but it has its drawbacks.

First off, this is an actual film, even though the prominence of the NT logo may lead you to think this is one of those live broadcasts from the London stage. After the arrest of Wright, writer Alecky Blythe went to Ipswich to interview some of the surviving sex workers and the residents of London Road, where Wright had briefly lived and where many of the women that he murdered worked as prostitutes. All the dialogue and the song lyrics (set to music by Adam Cork) are taken directly from her recordings of those interviews.

What is marvellous about London Road is that it is a true ensemble piece: it is the story of the community, not a few emblematic characters. Even better, Wright is never seen, and only the most minimal details of his crimes are outlined. In a society that glories in slaughter it’s a blessed relief to see a drama where people who aren’t killers or cops have some value beyond fodder.

But the songs are an issue. It is much more like opera than traditional musical theatre. Individual lines from the interviews are taken and repeated. The lines though are delivered with exactly the same faltering intonation and clumsy sentence structure. None of the ‘you knows’ and ‘likes’ are cut out. Celebrating the strength and fortitude of ordinary people in their own words is a noble, original and exciting idea but the repetition of their everyday inarticulacies makes the film sometimes feels like an officious teacher making students repeat a stupid remark out loud a hundred times in front of the class.

For a look at Jurassic World; the re-release of Tod Brownings Freaks; the season of James Bond Sunday double bill at the Vue and the blu-ray release of rap battle Tokyo Tribe go to halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Stories

Roland Penrose and Man Ray, Los Angeles, USA, 1946. Picture: Lee Miller Archives, England 2013

Biography fetes efforts to introduce modernism to the UK and a complex love life finds Bridget Galton.

Hornsey church tower

Situated between Crouch End and Muswell Hill on one side, and Wood Green on the other, locals joke that Hornsey’s reputation as a ‘poor neighbour’ really depends which neighbour you’re comparing it to. Most agree that this Victorian suburb is a cosmopolitan area on the up, with a great sense of community and a wealth of independent cafes and shops.

09:00
Harriet Dart

West Hampstead’s Harriet Dart admits she surprised herself with her performances after reaching the final round of the Wimbledon qualifiers and narrowly missing out on a place in the main draw.

08:00
Marc Weatherstone leads by example by heading the ball away for Wingate & Finchley. Pic: Martin Addison

It is rare for an outgoing player to ring a number of the club’s fans to explain the decision, but Wingate & Finchley is no ordinary club.

Yesterday, 17:00
The Tallis Scholars. Picture: Eric Richmond

Peter Phillips has spent 40 years perfecting the Tallis Scholar’s distinctive rich polyphonic purr to run like a well oiled machine.

Yesterday, 16:50
Middlesex's Toby Roland-Jones

It’s always great to see two young guys come together in a partnership like Nick Gubbins and Steve Eskinazi did this week against Lancashire.

Yesterday, 16:40
The Bishops Avenue is gaining in popularity with residents once again as new apartment schemes tempt buyers

No longer a decaying repository for oil money, luxurious new serviced apartments are putting The Bishops Avenue back on the map and attracting local buyers back to the road along with the international crowd.

Yesterday, 16:37
Candlelit vigil for Nazanin Ratcliffe opposite 10 Downing Street. Photo: Polly Hancock

Hundreds of family members, friends and well-wishers attended a candlelit vigil opposite Downing Street for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker held in Iran without charge since April 3.

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe