REVIEW: London Road
A macabre sense of humour grips London Road
A verbatim musical about the aftershocks of the 2006 Ipswich serial murders, London Road documents the reactions of the local community amid police investigation and media attention. The panic and suspicion in the neighbourhood masquerades in a macabre sense of humour that inspires nervous laughter throughout.
The production successfully captures the musicality of everyday speech. An otherwise chaotic chatter is harmonized by the Musical Director (Joe Beighton) to create an emotional momentum that both bewitches and bewilders.
One of the most memorable scenes, “A Bit of the Shudders”, finds a group of men talking about the motive of the killer in the dim light of the pub, accompanied by “Silent Night” and intertwined with a suspenseful tune. The uncertainty and incongruity of such scenes draws the audience’s attention to the nuances of the seemingly idle talk. For a moment, I became suspicious of the man who claims to know so much about the mentality of a serial killer.
London Road also features a marvellous ensemble cast who morph into different characters (gossiping residents, reporters, policemen, students…) with effortless charm. Performances to be particularly commended are those of Megan Gilbert, Laura Pujos and Robin Franklin who exude hilariously nervous energy.
Despite the accomplishments of the show, the second act is slightly weakened as it fails to fully realise its own promise. However, the mood completely changes in the following scenes where everyone celebrates the results of a community gardening contest in an uplifting tune. Though the ending signifies the revival of the community after the tragedy, the discrepancies between the scenes nonetheless unsettled me. Such unaddressed issues left me suspended in the air, but perhaps that is the message: the catharsis that we usually get from conventional musicals can hardly be found in real life. Some minor technical hiccups occurred, but this was the opening night after all.
London Road offers a novel experience of the combination of musical and social documentary. For verbatim theatre, dark humour and socio-psychoanalysis, come to see the show this week: it is full of surprises.