Part musical, part docudrama, part play, you’re unlikely ever to have seen anything quite like London Road. We saw it first last year during its limited run at The National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre, and our reactions ricocheted from appalled and shocked to wonder, awe and a standing ovation.
You’ll remember that in Ipswich, in 2006, the bodies of 5 prostitutes were discovered brutally murdered. The story became a news sensation that scandalised the nation; broadsheets and red tops alike were gripped by the small town drama. London Road, a hitherto unassuming suburban street, is where the murderer lived. This play turns its attentions to the effects those real life murders and the ensuing investigation and scandal had on the community, which it explores through a series of first person testimonies by local groups, from curtain-twitching neighbours to prostitute rings. It’s a punchy subject, for sure, but the really unique thing is that the play uses transcripts of real interviews with those locals for its dialogue, which are completely unedited (down to the last ‘um’). Not only that, but the interviews are set to music, keeping the exact melodic rhythms of speech. It takes a little getting used to at first but as the narratives interweave and the emotions sing through it becomes an unforgettably moving state-of-the-nation portrait of a community in crisis.
That such a groundbreaking, daring and unsettling piece of theatre could not only sell out but win the best musical award at the Critics Circle, is testimony to how much of a must-see it is. Now that it’s back in The National’s much larger Olivier Theatre we have this message for you: go and see it.