TIFF ’15 – ‘London Road’ is the most unique musical of 2015

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London Road Poster

London Road
Written by Alecky Blythe
Directed by Rufus Norris
UK, 2015

In 2006, Steve Wright (dubbed the Suffolk Strangler) murdered five prostitutes over a 6-week period. The series of murders menaced the small town of Ipswich and caused the media to descend on the story like a flock of starving vultures, giving the story a national spotlight. The film London Road is a musical/mystery-thriller directed by Rufus Norris and written by Alecky Blythe. The movie recounts the shock-waves sent through a small London Road community after the series of murders began striking too close to home. The film (which was originally a National Theatre production by the same title) is headlined by Olivia Colman and Tom Hardy and features a number of original cast members reprising their roles.

The most notable aspect of London Road is its novel approach to dialogue. Screenwriter Alecky Blythe went to the town of Ipswich during the height of the Suffolk Strangler frenzy and interviewed numerous residents (including police and prostitutes) of the community. Blythe returned after Wright’s arrest, conducting more interviews during his trail to follow up. Blythe then undertook the arduous task of sorting through the dialogue and using a verbatim approach to translate it into London Road’s screenplay. All the dialogue in the film (even the songs) comes straight from the mouths actual residents of the actual London Road community.

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Where the film excels is in its unsettling depiction of the creeping paranoia that slithered under the skin of the London Road residents. The authenticity of the dialogue is at times as disconcerting as the story of the Suffolk Strangler. Norris and Blythe confronts the audience with some uncomfortable truths, such as residents thankful that The Strangler rid their neighbourhood of prostitutes. The degree of insular middle-class privilege on display towards the end of London Road is far too disheartening to have been crafted in any screenwriter’s mind.

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