London Road documents the events that shook Suffolk in 2006, when the quiet rural town of Ipswich was shattered by the discovery of the bodies of five women. The residents of London Road had struggled for years with frequent soliciting and kerb-crawling on their street. The film follows the community who found themselves at the epicentre of the tragic events. Using their own words set to an innovative musical score, London Road tells a moving story of ordinary people coming together during the darkest of experiences.
Review by Louise Keller:
A fascinating marriage of genre and subject matter, this unique musical with recitative-like delivery, mockumentary-style dramatization and understated execution is a breath of fresh air. An adaptation of the National Theatre's stage production, London Road is the creation of writer Alecky Blythe and Tony Award winning composer Adam Cork that explores the possibilities of using verbatim transcripts obtained from the residents of rural Suffolk. These were obtained over a period of three years after the 2006 events, when five prostitutes were murdered. The result is fresh and surprising, developing like a bud that is blossoming into a beautiful flower.
I was especially interested by the way the dialogue morphs into recitative and song. A word in an otherwise normal sentence of dialogue takes a musical tone, while others assume a syncopation and pronounced rhythm. It's like the meter of a poem, except that nothing rhymes; the dialogue is a verbatim expression of the thoughts and feelings of the London Road residents. It all happens so spontaneously, we almost do not notice if the characters are talking or singing.
Everything rings true and director Rufus Norris has injected a constant sense of motion as the action with ordinary looking people in ordinary surroundings venture to the pub, the men's clothes shop, among Christmas trees, in the street, among police barricades, in the church hall and wait in the courtroom. The story plays out simply as the events spool forth, the characters all in shock at what has transpired and are trying to make some sense of it. The words are expressive, honest and to the point.
The ensemble cast led by Olivia Colman is faultless and Tom Hardy appears in an unforgettable cameo as a cab driver who has been studying serial killers since his mid teens.
This is not a musical in the traditional sense and there are no show-stoppers that you will be humming as you leave the cinema. But that's not to say there is a lack of musicality about the work - the rhythms are addictive as are the repetitions of key phrases such as 'everyone is very nervous', allowing the key focus of the emotional journeys of the characters to be accentuated.
The final resolution is both uplifting and poignant, as the negative is turned into a positive. Like me, you may even find yourself being inspired!
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Verbatim drama married to music and choreography is a unique form of cinema, just as the film's stage version was a unique piece of theatre (with two sell-out runs at the National Theatre in London). What is verbatim drama, you ask. It's using recorded interviews with people as dialogue, complete with all the random pauses, glitches, ums and errs and repetitions that make up our everyday speech. In London Road, the characters speak or sing words originally spoken by the real inhabitants of London Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, England. They spoke them during interviews recorded by Alecky Blythe. And they were put to music - without any alteration - by Adam Cork.
It takes longer to explain this new genre in words than it takes to comprehend it on screen; and the revelation of its workings as the film begins is quite wonderful. This is a seductive, creative and thoroughly engrossing work, underpinned by the factual reality of the story of a serial killer in sleepy Suffolk, who murdered five local prostitutes in less than ten weeks.
The recordings capture the diverse and often surprising reactions of the London Road residents, as well as those of some of the victims' co-workers, given a brilliantly inventive musical platform and performed in the ad hoc fashion that mirrors, or rather echoes, the average speech mannerisms of the English.
What is astonishing is how effectively that very randomness is captured in exceptionally disciplined choral work, unison singing and ensemble performances. Thanks to the comprehensive nature of Alecky's recorded interviews, the film is filled with both factual as well as emotional layers, delivering a surprisingly charming (for a story of a serial killer's rampage) film, albeit with dark undertones. Sensitive and gently humorous, too, London Road is worth a visit.
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LONDON ROAD (MA)
CAST: Olivia Colman, Clare Burt, Rosalie Craig, Anita Dobson, James Doherty, Hal Fowler, Kate Fleetwood, Linzi Hateley, Nick Holder, Claire Moore, Michael Shaeffer, Nicola Sloane, Paul Thornley, Howard Ward, Duncan Wisbey and Tom Hardy.
PRODUCER: Dixie Linder
DIRECTOR: Rufus Norris
SCRIPT: Alecky Blythe
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Danny Cohen
EDITOR: John Wilson
MUSIC: Adam Cork
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Katrina Lindsay
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 24, 2015