Film Review: London Road

London Road

Ground-breaking, innovative and completely compelling, London Road is nothing like you’ve ever seen before

For the past eight years, National Theatre Live (NTLive) has been broadcasting performances of their productions live via satellite to movie theatres and art centres across the world. No surprise then that the award-winning theatre decided to premiere their latest film, an adaptation of innovative musical London Road, as part of NTLive.

Initially written as a piece of musical theatre, London Road documents the real-life discovery of the bodies of five prostitutes in Suffolk in 2006. Original, innovative and uttering compelling, the story is told through the words of residents of London Road, the home of the murderer Steve Wright who was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment.

The film starts in the winter of 2006 as the neighbours of London Road watch on helplessly as their street becomes a red-light area and prostitutes tout for business outside their homes. Locals are gripped by fear after the murders of five women. When London Road resident Steve Wright is arrested by Suffolk police, the residents become the centre of a media scrum as battle lines are drawn between the locals, the invasive media and the working girls. The film documents the real-life experiences of the residents and their efforts to rebuild their community after the tragedy.

London Road Film Trailer

Ground-breaking, innovative and completely compelling, London Road is nothing like you’ve ever seen before. The film adaptation firmly sticks to writer Alecky Blythe’s verbatim style in which the characters on screen each say the exact words of their real-life counterparts as recorded in interviews, right down to every stutter, every intonation and every pause. The phrases are then made into song cleverly composed by Adam Cork, resulting in a musical that sounds a little odd at times but somehow seems to work.

Unlike the original play, in which a dozen actors each play between six to seven roles, the film version is on a much bigger canvas and features some well-known names. Olivia Colman plays Julie, the woman who unites the neighbourhood by stirring up militant civic pride in a community torn apart by what has happened. Mad Max’s Tom Hardy also makes an appearance as a paranoid taxi driver Mark. In one scene, he tells a passenger that he has a fascination with serial killers, instantly becoming a suspect himself (to the audience and residents at least), in a place where just about every woman is a potential victim and every man is a suspect. Fellow cast members include Paul Thornley who plays enigmatic neighbour Dodge, Michael Schaeffer as journalist Simon Newton, Nicola Sloane as resident Rosemary and Nick Holder as her husband Ron. Even Anita Dobson makes an appearance as June, one of the London Road residents.

Innovative, simple but incredibly breathtaking, London Road is essentially a big-hearted study of mankind’s ability to learn and recover from tragedy. Whilst the film lacks some of the electrifying tension of the original play (emphasised by the claustrophobic confines of a theatre stage), this new adaptation directed by National Theatre director Rufus Norris boasts plenty of charm and power. An innovative production that is sure to blow you away.

4 out of 5 stars

London Road is released in cinemas on Friday 12 June

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