Rufus Norris has proven to be a director capable of oscillating between theatre and cinema: he brought Dogme 95’s controversial film Festen to the theatre, and his last cinematic project, Broken, was met with critical praise. This time Norris brings his own stage production onto the cinematic screen with London Road, and does so with great success.
The film is a musical, drama mystery, set on London Road in Ipswich, that retells the true story of the serial killer Steve Wright, who murdered five prostitutes in late 2006. Its primary focus is the residents who live on the road, and their ways of coping and dealing with the murders, media attention, and illicit behaviour.
Not unlike its theatrical origins, much of the dialogue is done verbatim through a series of faux interviews, which allow the true voices of the community to be heard. This translates perfectly to cinema; the interviews feel significantly more personal, and the medium allows Norris to challenge the media’s power of rhetoric. Furthermore, he has successfully fused a number of genres – mystery, documentary, drama, thriller – under the musical genre.
The narrative’s alternation between personal interviews and ensemble casting emphasises the paranoia of identifying the killer. This is complemented by the monochromatic, grey colour palette during the first act, which also reflects the grim conditions endured by this community. The colours constantly echo the collective spirit of the residents, as well as the slow revelation of the murderer.
The musical numbers are jarring at first – almost gimmicky – if one isn’t familiar with the film’s theatrical beginnings, for it shifts from quasi-realist interviews to an impromptu number from the newscast on the television screens. However, once the first “big” ensemble number occurs, it’s wholly apparent that Norris intends to reference the community spirit.
London Road juggles a number of conflicting emotions, with performances across the entire cast conveying great nuance in balancing suspicion of each other with a desire to tackle the terrible media attention. This subtlety in the musical genre is a rare treat, and suits its truthful origin. For those wanting a little extra, it is worth staying for the end credits (but don’t expect a Marvel–type scene).
London Road is released nationwide on 12th June 2015.
Watch the trailer for London Road here: