By Brent Davidson
20th September 2015

Have you ever had a conversation with your friends so good, or a night that was so outrageous you said out loud “this would make a great movie or TV show!” You’d be lying if you said no, but what's so difficult is making even the most banal of your interactions something interesting. Our word for word verbatim is not as interesting as you think, so how would you make an interesting movie out of what you say every day?

The community of London Road has a problem with the prostitutes who have set themselves up at the bottom of the street; day and night they are there with their clients. This understandably leads to quite high tensions in the small community, with the police being of little help. All of this changes, however, when one of the girls is brutally murdered and found in the front yard of one of London Road’s residences. It's then up to the people of the road to change its image and rally to create the neighbourhood they remember and love.


Oh - one other thing. This is a musical.

That’s right, a musical. Now I need to stress just how technically difficult it must have been to write a verbatim (taken word for word from interviews with the real-life residents) musical and for it to be incredibly good. ‘London Road’ was originally a Nation Theatre stage production, so a lot of the work was done before the film, but that work can not be ignored. It is mind-boggling how the writers (book by Alecky Blythe, music by Adam Cork) captured the tension, translated it musically and made it work. There must have been a truckload of footage and interviews to go through. I absolutely loved just how literal it was, even down to the constant and very human “Um...”

It makes sense why the National Theatre chose this to be their first foray into film, beyond simply filming stage shows. There's something so quintessentially British about ‘London Road’ beyond your average tea drinking. It’s something I notice a lot in my English Immigrant grandparents, the occasional poking a head out of a blind to have a look at the street, but also not getting too involved - I didn’t realise how just English a thing it was!

There's something so quintessentially British about ‘London Road’ beyond your average tea drinking.

I love when an original cast is used. There are stories of how cast members around the world were clawing at their chance to be in the ‘Les Miserables’ film; understandably it’s a world wide sensation and not something as small as ‘London Road’, but the fact that they used the entire original cast in some way not only humbled the film but gave the sense of community an even greater strength. Olivia Colman - is there nothing she can’t do? She is a marvel. Such a strong performer in every way, and this role was challenging to say the least. Trying to add a bit of realism to a musical is no easy feat, yet she and the whole cast do a terrific job, transitioning from interview to action and back again without so much as a blink.

‘London Road’ is uplifting, charming and undeniably British. Anyone interested in seeing the construction of a truly amazing piece of writing should go see it. It’s a musical fan’s dream, and is a confident step forward for the modern musical.

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