The Singapore Grip TV Series Overview


Introduction

The Singapore Grip is an ITV six-part television drama series. It is an adaptation of Booker Prize winner J.G. Farrell’s 1978 novel, The Singapore Grip.

The story tells of a love affair taking place around the time of the Japanese invasion of Singapore.

It stars Luke Treadaway, David Morrissey and Elizabeth Tan. The series debut was on BBC First in Australia on 26 July 2020, followed by 13 September on UK’s ITV.

Outline

The story focus on a British family, the Blacketts, who control one of the leading trading companies in colonial-era Singapore, and the son of his business partner, Matthew Webb. Walter Blackett is keen that Matthew Webb should marry his daughter Joan, but Matthew is interested instead in a mysterious Chinese woman, Vera Chiang. When the Japanese invaded and occupied Singapore, the couple is forced apart. A running joke in the story is Matthew trying to find out what “the Singapore Grip” means, and getting different answers from different people he talked to.

Cast

  • Charles Dance as Mr. Webb.
  • Luke Treadaway as Matthew Webb.
  • David Morrissey as Walter Blackett.
  • Georgia Blizzard as Joan Blackett.
  • Jane Horrocks as Sylvia Blackett.
  • Lilo Baier as Kate Blackett.
  • Luke Newberry as Monty Blackett.
  • Colm Meaney as Major Brendan Archer.
  • Elizabeth Tan as Vera Chiang.
  • Bart Edwards as Ehrendorf.
  • Christophe Guybet as Dupigny.

Production

ITV commissioned the production of an adaptation of the J.G. Farrell book, The Singapore Grip, in February 2018. The production company Mammoth Screen approached Christopher Hampton to write the screenplay. Hampton, who knew Farrell very well before he died in 1979, readily agreed. The series was executive produced by Damien Timmer, and filming began in early 2019.

The series was filmed in various locations in and around Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia rather than in Singapore which has become too well-developed to reflect the look and feel of the colonial era. The mansions of Carcosa Seri Negara in Perdana Botanical Gardens in Kuala Lumpur served as the residences of the Blacketts and Mr Webb. A vintage plane from a museum in a military airbase was used for the arrival of Matthew Webb, and an abandoned town near Kuala Lumpur airport was used for the firefighting scene.

The Battle of Slim River was also filmed near Kuala Lumpur, as was the plantation scene filmed at Broga Plantation. Other locations that doubled for old Singapore included the Royal Selangor Club and Wisma Ekran (Anglo-Oriental Building) in Kuala Lumpur, Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang, as well as Georgetown’s Chinatown, City Hall, cricket ground and Esplanade, Swettenham Pier, the Lebuh Aceh Mosque Compound, the Thai Pak Koong Temple, and Balik Pulau Rice Field in Penang.

Controversy

The advocacy group British East and South East Asians working in the Theatre and Screen industries criticised the series as “colonial history told through a white gaze”, whose “Asian characters are merely heavily accented ciphers, silent chauffeurs, exotic dancers, giggly prostitutes, monosyllabic grunts and half-naked Yogis”. Screenwriter Christopher Hampton defended the books on which the series is based as “perhaps the most celebrated attack on colonialism by a British novelist in the 20th Century”.

The Singapore Grip Series

STV Player uploaded all six episodes at once as a boxset on 13 September 2020, whereas the ITV Hub only uploaded one episode at a time after broadcast every Sunday, from 13 September to 18 October 2020.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Tom Vaughan … (6 episodes, 2020).
  • Producer(s):
    • Farah Abushwesha … producer (6 episodes, 2020).
    • Magen Appathurai … line producer (6 episodes, 2020).
    • Veronica Castillo … Production Executive (6 episodes, 2020).
    • Christopher Hampton … executive producer (6 episodes, 2020).
    • Karen Thrussell … executive producer (6 episodes, 2020).
    • Rebecca Keane … executive producer (unknown episodes).
    • Charles Salmon … line producer (unknown episodes).
    • Damien Timmer … executive producer (unknown episodes).
  • Writer(s):
    • J.G. Farrell … (6 episodes, 2020).
    • Christopher Hampton … (6 episodes, 2020).
  • Music:
    • Anne Dudley … (6 episodes, 2020).
  • Cinematography:
    • John Lee … (6 episodes, 2020).
  • Editor(s):
    • Guy Bensley … (2 episodes, 2020).
    • Dan Farrell … (2 episodes, 2020).
    • Josh Mallalieu … (2 episodes, 2020).
  • Production: Mammoth Screen.
  • Distributor(s): ITV.
  • Release Date: 13 September 2020 to 18 October 2020.
  • Running Time: 55 minutes.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

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