You’d think with National Theater director Rufus Norris (“Broken”) and stars Tom Hardy and Olivia Colman on board, the movie adaptation of the British musical stage phenomenon “London Road” would be a cinch for a North American pickup.
Well, while you have to give Hardy points for joining this ambitious sung musical—and pulling off his role, which is small—the London subject matter may be too arcane for a crossover arthouse hit. But I am happy to report that BBC Worldwide North America is bringing the movie, which debuted at last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival, to theaters in September.
In fact this ground-breaking theater musical helped to put Norris on the map—and landed him the directorship at the National. The debut film by writer Alecky Blythe, with music by Adam Cork and lyrics by Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork, “London Road” features an ensemble mostly comprised of its original stage cast, who had the necessary chops to deliver it.
Astonishingly, the play used Blythe’s verbatim transcripts from people she interviewed who were involved in tracking a serial killer of prostitutes on London Road—she edited them into a sung musical, which the actors had to execute precisely. BBC Films backed the film, with the National Theatre executive producing; by the time they shot it, Norris had been appointed as the next director, in a clear vote for innovation.
The National, in one of its “experimental provocations,” threw Blythe together with composer Adam Cork in a kind of shotgun marriage in a workshop to write and compose together. And then Alecky went back to Ipswich in 2006 and started meeting people, and it built up from there. Norris decided to turn the hit play into a workable movie, altering the structure and adding one key song that performs the feat of moving the viewer into a musical.
Norris could only have pulled off the low-budget movie with actors who knew the material inside out, but they did add several cinema players to help get it made: Colman and Hardy. When “London Road” hits theaters, do check it out. You’ve never seen anything quite like it.