London Road shouldn’t work. It really shouldn’t. Like a duck-billed platypus, it brings together too many conflicting qualities that can’t possibly cohere into a meaningful whole – but do.
A faux-documentary about the impact of a serial killer. Rigidly verbatim text. Set to music. Cardiganed folk as backing dancers. The mundane sentence turned into a rising oratorio.
“Everyone is very, very nervous and very uncertain of everything, basically,” is an inelegant line but true. Illuminated, examined, repeated endlessly to music, it gathers even more resonance.
London Road works for a number of reasons which are more to do with alchemy than science or art. It represents a lot of people at the top of their game drawn to a project with an earnest intent to do good work.
And sometimes that is enough.
The story is set in Ipswich 2006 when a serial killer murdered five prostitutes in the run-up to Christmas. The street on which Steve Wright lived, London Road, was plagued by kerb crawlers and working girls.
The (real-life) residents were angered by the presence of this trade and then terrified when it was swept away by murder.
The residents and the girls spoke to Alecky Blythe who took down their words for Adam Cork to turn into song under the direction of Rufus Norris who makes a weird sort of downbeat flash mob.
Wright’s eventual arrest and prosecution is a signal for a rebirth. Julie (Olivia Colman) runs a London Road In Bloom competition, the splashes of colour erasing memories of streets cat’s-cradled by police tape.
People emerge from their homes. They make an effort. They make friends. They make a community.
From the nadir of the killings to the triumph of ordinary people, in extraordinary circumstances, wresting back their ordinariness.
It’s unlike anything you’ve seen in a cinema in a long time, I’ll bet.