Everyone is very, very nervous, um, and very unsure of everything, basically…” This adaption of Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork’s verbatim musical, which Rufus Norris first directed at the National Theatre in 2011, does an admirable job of transferring the stage show to screen. Based on interviews conducted in the wake of the Steve Wright “Ipswich Ripper” murders of 2006, the narrative focuses on the peculiar mix of blame, suspicion, regret and rejuvenation with which residents wrestled amid a media firestorm. Pitched between the experimental cinema of Clio Barnard’s The Arbor and the more accessible theatrics of Les Misérables (“It’s a wicked bloody world,” sing the locals awaiting sight of the prisoner), London Road exists in the quarter tones between speech and song, the lilt of voices drifting almost imperceptibly into melody. Repetition lends weight to apparently incidental phrases, the ensemble cast excellently negotiating the natural/artificial tempo changes.
For the most part, the drama focuses on the residents, some of whom are wholly unsympathetic to the plight of those on whom Wright preyed. When we finally hear from those women, it’s on the steel steps of the giant gasometer, the location adding a lonely West Side Story edge to their plaintive cry: “It took all that for anyone to start helping us…” The finale reaches towards a very British dream of reconciliation, but this film is unafraid to scratch away at disturbing tensions in our suburban lives.