Written by Day Moibi


The road to understanding?

The National Theatre’s musical version of the Ipswich murders, London Road, comes to the big screen. Day Moibi took a look.

London Road cast shotIn December 2006, the uneventful town of Ipswich was thrust into the news after five women were murdered.

The tragic events were made into a National Theatre musical production in 2011, adapted now for the big screen. London Road documents the community in the aftermath of the murders, with the majority of dialogue and lyrics based on interviews that writer Alecky Blythe conducted with local residents, the media and women who worked as prostitutes on the street.

To be completely honest, I was curious how such a topic could be put into song. However, the music is handled to perfection with Adam Cork providing buckets of innovation and creativity, which dispel any reservations.

Rufus Norris directs with a clear vision in mind. The cinematography and colour of the film is meticulous, beginning with a claustrophobic greyscale and moving into high-colour saturation, evidently showing the emotional movement of the town and the residents.

Two women walkingAlecky Blythe records real people talking about their experiences and understands that, perhaps, what is important is not what is being said but how one says it. The actors and actresses perfect the colloquialisms and the speech of the residents; right down to their umms and errs.

Blythe and Cork repeat and echo the distressing and nerve-racking statements of the residents into musical spoken-word, allowing the chilling truths to remain spinning in your mind: “You automatically think it could be him…” “We’re all frightened to go out, but we were anyway …”

“Everyone is very, very nervous, um, and very unsure of everything, basically…” The first musical number the cast croons perfectly reflects my feelings towards the film: although original and well made, there is something about London Road that leaves me wary. There is something I cannot shake, a feeling I cannot put my thumb on, something which makes me deeply apprehensive.

The residents of London Road shamelessly blame the prostitutes for ruining their street and hold them responsible for their own deaths. Julie (Olivia Coleman) openly sides with the killer, stating that, although she could never do such a thing, she would shake his hand. Although a direct quote from the residents, it’s repugnant, but the film tries not to judge the ordinary people who wish to get on with their lives. Yet, with such strong opinions being held, it’s hard not to turn your head at the tastelessness of the matter.

“The final scenes show all can be well, if you work together and put effort into making your community whole. Yet the women who truly were affected and spun into turmoil were cast to the side.”

The most commanding scene is where you hear the side of the prostitutes, as they sing about how it took the death of their friends for anyone to help them. This is the sincerest and most undeniable statement throughout the whole film. One can speak of community and joy but when we push aside the people who really need our help, the ones who slip through our fingers and into the darkest depths of our failing system, it is hard to think of anything other than bitter irony.

The film centres on the powerful story of a community trying to bring itself together in a time of despair and turmoil. The final scenes show all can be well, if you work together and put effort into making your community whole. Yet the women who truly were affected and spun into turmoil were cast to the side. It is not only about bringing together your community, it’s about helping humanity as a whole; we must be empathetic and compassionate to all and not only the privileged individuals who conquer our screens and our media.

Community event scene in London RoadColeman holds her own as the town’s spokeswoman and the cameo by Tom Hardy is a small treat for those who can’t help but love the man of the moment. Both unsettling and imaginative, London Road is gallant and inspired and is one of the most original pieces of British cinema I have ever seen.

In the live Q&A after the screening, Norris spoke of the uplifting message he hoped to deliver. I wonder how uplifting such a film can be when we realise the real victims will forever be outsiders. That sadness remains with me: the innovation and creativity of the film cannot be denied but I feel very nervous, about what is being said or what is not.

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Written by Day Moibi

Day Moibi is an aspiring philosopher who spends most of her time thinking about cheese, the absurdities of life and film.