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Review of London Road at the Bridewell Theatre

London RoadIn December 2006 there were a series of murders of prostitutes in Ipswich. Five girls were brutally slain in the city and it became headline news for a while before disappearing from the media when Stephen Wright was arrested, charged and convicted.

Not the most obvious subject for a musical but in 2011 “London Road” written by Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork caused a sensation at the National. What made the show unique was that it was a “verbatim” musical i.e. Ms Blythe had gone to Ipswich and interviewed the local residents of London Road (where Stephen Wright had lived whilst carrying out the murders) and then transcribed the interviews precisely into the dialogue and lyrics of the show. So what you hear on stage are the transcribed interviews including the ums, erms, pauses and y’knows transformed into a rhythmic poetry that combined with some wonderfully melodic and occasionally atonal music, make for a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a funny, moving, poignant and often disturbing piece that spotlights a small community of people living regular, often mundane lives when their world is turned upside down by the events going on just a few yards from their homes.

SEDOS are London’s leading amateur dramatic company who have had enormous success over the past few decades but this was a very brave project to take on as it’s not an easy, run of the mill musical by any means.

Director Matt Gould along with co-director Gayle Bryans have given us a splendid production at the Bridewell Theatre an old swimming pool in the middle of the City of London. They’ve taken a group of mainly untrained actors who include a solicitor, an HR administrator and a communications manager and turned them into an ensemble that if you hadn’t read the programme, you wouldn’t have known that they weren’t a group of sixteen professional actors at the top of their game.

The set is fairly simple but the superb use of projections onto the back wall takes us to a village hall, London Road itself, a local café and various gardens in the area. Combine this with a few tables and chairs and you’re immersed into the community who live in London Road.

The seven-piece band ably led by musical director Jordan Clark are excellent although occasionally a little loud and the lyrics were drowned out a couple of times. This may not be anything to do with the sound set-up but a problem with the acoustics at the Bridewell as this Victorian baths wasn’t expecting to house musicals when it was built!

It would be unfair to single anyone out for special praise as this truly is an ensemble piece so congratulations must go to everyone concerned both on and back stage. This is a real triumph for SEDOS and if last night’s full house is anything to go by, the fairly short run should be a great success.

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

In 2006 the everyday life of the town of Ipswich was shattered by the discovery of the bodies of five women.
The residents of London Road had struggled for years with the soliciting and kerb-crawling on their street. When Steve Wright, the occupant of number 79, was arrested, charged and then convicted of the murders, the community grappled with the media frenzy and what it meant to be at the epicentre of this tragedy.

Playwright Alecky Blythe recorded extensive interviews with the residents of London Road and turned them into an intelligent, startling and raw piece of theatre. Tony Award winner Adam Cork’s score uses the melodic and rhythmic speech patterns captured on those recordings to create this extraordinary work.

London Road is an experimental and challenging musical documentary which reveals the ways in which even the darkest experiences can inspire a community.

Cast
Julie – Christa Engelbrecht
Terry – Mark Macey
June – Lydia King
Ron – Stephen Beeny
Rosemary – Charlotte Price
Tim – Tom Brennan
Jan – Abigail Francis
Gordon – Mark Londesborough
Helen – Kate Gledhill
Dodge – Andrew Macpherson
Carol – Deborah Lean
Alfie: Matt Wright
Chris Eakin – Peter Shimmin
Sarah – Chloe Higham-Smith
Vicky – Hannah Parkes
Hayley – Heather Broderick

Director: Matt Gould
Movement and assistant director: Gayle Bryans
Musical director: Jordan Clarke
Producer: Steven King
Assistant producer: Hannah Hurley
Costumes: Wayne Burke
Sound designer – Adrian Jeakins
Lighting designer – Oliver Levett
Stage manager – Andrew Laidlaw

London Road
Book and lyrics by Alecky Blythe
Music and lyrics by Adam Cork

Bridewell Theatre
Bride Lane Fleet Street
London, EC4Y 8EQ
http://www.sedos.co.uk/

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