The aforementioned case is that of the 2006 Ipswich serial murders, where five prostitutes were killed in cold blood. It was on London Road, a seemingly calm, residential street by day, and a regular soliciting area by night. In the wake of the shocking events, the locals and neighbours were interviewed about the ordeal, and it’s those words that have become the lyrics to the various songs in this production. Neighbours such as Julie (Olivia Colman), June (Anita Dobson) and even cab drivers like Mark (Tom Hardy) weigh in with their personal thoughts on the matter, and recollections of both the perpetrator and the victims, as we build towards the trial to determine the fate of the accused.
First and foremost, it’s intriguing to witness these events from an outside perspective, of those not immediately connected to the murders as we usually do on screen – either embodying the perpetrator, victim or detective working on the case – but those living in such close proximity, having to deal with the aftermath of the media and the law enforcement parked outside their homes, at the epicentre of a national news story. As such as we can relate more to this tale, as we, just like them, are members of the public, living in and around tragic incidents all the time.
Norris has done a remarkable job combining both the naturalistic elements with the fantastical, as while the songs are steeped in a sombre, real context, they are presented in a theatrical way, with overtly choreographed sequences, as we’re to suspend our disbelief accordingly. However there is an argument that to truly warrant bringing this tale from the stage to the screen, perhaps an even more overtly ostentatious, stylistic approach could have been taken. Nonetheless the indelible songs make this such a deeply saddening affair, especially given the subtle vocal patterns are included in the lyrics, the umming and ahhings, the repeating of words and foibles and idiosyncrasies we all have. It makes these striking words even more powerful, and signifies the filmmaker’s inclination for complete precision.
What transpires is an atmosphere like no other, one that is chilling and foreboding, truly capturing the overall sentiment around the town, which is uneasy and anxious. London Road is an inherently, and deeply sad production, and though in some ways it has a positivity to it, in how a neighbourhood can come together and almost be reborn in the face of tragedy, there is never a celebratory feeling to this, and there’s almost a sense of guilt in how it has taken these murders to accomplish this sense of community.
London Road may not have quite that same emotional impact as the stage play however, but it’s rarely the case for a filmic adaptation to surpass a project in its original form. Nonetheless, it’s rare to see a picture so different nowadays, so whatever you may make of London Road, if you’re a fan of not, if there is one thing for sure, it’s that it’s incomparable to anything else out there.