London Road

23/03/2017 19:45.
Cert 15

The National Theatre production of London Road is brought to the screen. It is the verbatim account of events given by the residents of London Road, Ipswich, as the real life hunt in 2006 for a serial murderer proceeds. An unlikely subject for a musical? No. From The Threepenny Opera to Sweeney Todd, the macabre has been explored in musical theatre. London Road does not seek to make a hero of the murderer but deals with the response of the local communities affected. The wonderful ensemble cast blend together brilliantly in this exhilarating film. “London Road was a mighty success on stage. Now it is a unique triumph on the movie screen.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian. (Cert 15)
Dir: Rufus Norris 88mins UK 2015

Programme Notes

Like La La Land, the multi-award winner at this year’s Oscars (famously not for Best Picture, however!), tonight’s film is a musical – but not the feel-good pastiche variety!

In 2006, London Road in Ipswich became the unwilling focal point for the serial murders of five prostitutes and, in 2011 was made the subject of a musical written by Alecky Blythe (book and lyrics) and Adam Cork (music and lyrics). The production, directed by Rufus Norris, opened at the Cottesloe National Theatre in April of that year.

This adaptation, also directed by Rufus Norris, got off the ground in February 2014 and was produced by the National Theatre, BBC Films and Cuba Pictures. As part of the National Theatre’s Live initiative, it was premiered in cinemas across Britain on June 9th 2015 and featured many of the ensemble cast members of the original theatre production.

Set in and around London Road, the lyrical score for this musical adaptation is based on the verbatim use of recorded interviews conducted by Alecky Blythe with residents who lived there, with some of the women who worked as prostitutes and also with members of the news reporting media. Perhaps not surprisingly, some residents had ambivalent feelings about the murders, since the area had for years been plagued by soliciting and kerb-crawling. Neither the murdered women nor their killer are depicted, nor are the murders themselves – rather, the piece is concerned with the residents as they cope with the events unfolding around them, the media attention drawn to their neighbourhood, and their attempts to rebuild and regenerate their community afterwards.

A street in Bexley, east London, was chosen as the location for the film since the actual Ipswich site was seen as unsuitable for various technical and logistical reasons. Also, the location in Bexley was dominated by old gasometers, which provided a striking visual metaphor for the horrific events that engulfed London Road, Ipswich in 2006.

Acknowledgements: Anon,

“[ … ] when something horribly violent happens, how do you react as a society? The media is part of that – they are the village storytellers in a way”
Jessamy Calkin, The Guardian

“There are pleasing echoes here of the late French director Jaques Demy’s gloriously whimsical sung-through musicals, notably The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”
Anon, The Hollywood Reporter

Julie – Olivia Colman
Mark -Tom Hardy
Ron – Nick Holder
Sue – Clare Burt
Simon Newton – Michael Schaeffer
Director – Rufus Norris
Producer – Dixie Linder et al.
Screenplay – Alecky Blythe
Cinematography – Danny Cohen
Original Music  – Adam Cork


  • Brilliant!
  • Brilliantly original!
  • Such an original, gripping, dark and challenging film. Brilliant!
  • A good idea, well executed
  • What an excellent film showing us the different attributes of people so closely drawn in to what happened. I never thought how much tragedies like this bring kindness to a neighbourhood
  • Whilst it may not have been a screen musical milestone, the film’s originality and timely subject matter made it a great insight into 21st century Britain, eg our obsession with 24hrs news coverage, how people perceive certain types of ‘other’ and how communities overcome tragedy
  • A brave venture, strong on the documentary aspects, had flashes of inspiration. Music not memorable but very apt
  • Some things I couldn’t hear or see the significance of but I know of no other film with such a continuing, spine-chilling sense of fear and unease
  • A moving and tragic story, with the responses of the residents honestly portrayed. As ever, bigotry and misogyny were prominent and the real underlying cause of the tragedy, men, hardly came into anyone’s thinking. Women always suffer!
  • Thought provoking – echoes of a Roman mob baying for blood, then Bread and Crocuses!
  • Atmospheric – but not sure it worked as a musical
  • I expect it worked on stage but I don’t think it worked as a film
  • Some good filming, especially the close-ups early on but, God, that never-ending chanting!
  • Too much plainsong, not enough singsong for me
  • Better than I thought it might be. There must be plenty of dentists in Ipswich – did you notice how good their teeth were?
  • Disturbing and hypnotic but not to my taste in musicals
  • Not exactly Sound of Music – more goggle-box on acid!


A:12, B:14, C:5, D:4, E:1 to give 72% from 86% of those present.