London Road (musical): National Theatre (London)

I didn't know what to expect of London Road, playing at the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre. I didn't even know it was a musical; if I had, I probably (definitely) would not have bought a ticket for it. Fortunately I didn't know, and fortunately it was not a traditional musical.

London Road is set in the English town of Ipswich, Suffolk. It is a true story focused on community reaction to the Suffolk Strangler, Steve Wright, arrested and later convicted for the murder of five local prostitutes. The play itself was produced, verbatim, from transcripts of interviews with residents, police, and prostitutes, after the murders and during the trial.

Literally word for word, a true story, but in song; a community torn by tragedy and struggling to maintain its pride after being labeled by outsiders, namely the media, following the murders.

Given the source material, the final product is incredibly strange, but not disrespectful or even creepy, as might be expected when transcripts from a serial murder are turned into song. At both the beginning and end of the play, there are original audio excerpts from the interviews transcripted, which adds depth to an already impressive performance.

The play featured more than a dozen but probably fewer than 20 actors, playing what amounted to probably more than 50 characters. It was fast-paced with many set, scene and character changes. It was a dynamic performance, back and forth between song and spoken word.

The theatre itself was fantastic: Small, intimate, probably not a bad seat in the house.