The Singapore Grip shows the comfortable life of a British family in 1940s Singapore as it's violently disrupted in the new six-part drama, currently showing on streaming service Britbox. Based on the 1978 novel by the late Irish author JG Farrell, it follows Walter and Sylvie Blackett.
They have made a happy home in the British colony with their three children Joan, Monty and Kate — but they’re unaware that an impending Japanese invasion will lead to a humiliating surrender for the British forces, and the end of life as they know it.
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Star names in 'The Singapore Grip'…
David Morrissey plays Walter Blackett, the ruthless businessman who is determined to step out from his mentor’s shadow and prove himself at any cost, while Walter’s wife Sylvia is played by Absolutely Fabulous star Jane Horrocks. Sylvia is a well-respected pillar of the local community, who is blithely unconcerned about rumours of an impending Japanese invasion. Their daughter Joan Blackett, played by Georgia Blizzard, is an independent-minded young woman with considerable business acumen, Walter and Sylvie’s eldest daughter sets out to seduce Matthew Webb, played by Luke Treadaway (Fortitude). Matthew is an idealistic young man who works with international charities, Matthew is interested in improving conditions for the native workers at Blackett and Webb.
Luke Newberry (In The Flesh) plays Walter and Sylvia’s son Monty Blackett. Unlike his sister, Monty shows little interest or aptitude for the family business, and prefers to focus his efforts on good times and girls. Former Coronation Street actress Elizabeth Tan, is Vera Chiang, a Chinese woman with a mysterious history. Vera arrives seeking help from Joan after a chance encounter - but it’s Mr Webb who offers his assistance...
David Morrissey on the Blacketts in 'The Singapore Grip'
“Walter is an industrialist and a capitalist,” says David Morrissey, who plays him. "Even though there is a war about to happen, even though there’s this glaring thing coming at him at a million miles an hour, he’s sort of completely ignorant of that. He doesn’t see war as a reason to stop business — even as the bombs are coming over, he’s trying to do deals. He is all about making money.”
Walter runs the Blackett and Webb rubber company with his business partner and mentor Mr Webb (Charles Dance), but when he learns that Mr Webb plans to leave his side of the business to his estranged son Matthew (Luke Treadaway), Walter hatches a plan to gain complete control by getting his daughter Joan (Georgia Blizzard) to seduce Matthew. “He uses his eldest daughter as a honeytrap,” says David. "She gets it, and the relationship between the two of them about how they can manipulate the world around them via her sex really is extraordinary. It’s callous and it’s ruthless, but it isn’t without impressiveness"
While Walter’s calculated scheming might not make him a particularly likable man, David thinks there are still lots of people like him in the real world.
“There are elements of him in our own society that we see all the time,” he says. “He’s outrageous and greedy and sort of has a lack of morals, but he’s also fascinating and funny.”
Jane Horrocks on Sylvia Blackett in 'The Singapore Grip'
“I’m playing against type, which is always a bonus — I’m not an obvious choice to play a colonial mother,” says Jane Horrocks best known as Bubble in the hit series Absolutely Fabulous. “Sylvia’s an interferer, very keen on getting her daughter married off to the right person. She’s a bit like Mrs Bennet from Pride And Prejudice. That’s what I liked about her, that she was so different from me. It’s always good to present people as they were, as much as possible, rather than softening the edges. I think the characters are sort of oblivious of what’s going on in the outside world, and they’re non-apologetic for it.”
Where 'The Singapore Grip' was filmed?
The long shoot took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which doubled was wartime Singapore in the early 1940s. Jane Horrocks told us more about the intense heat the case had to endure on set: “The best thing is to stay very still! But we’re very lucky - we have lots of people who buzz around us with fans, and I feel very sorry for the supporting artists who don’t have that. You do feel incredibly privileged!
David Morrisey adds: “It was uncomfortable, but it’s not like we were pretending it’s anything else. We’re filming a drama about people in a place like this, so if you’re sweating and hot, you’re supposed to be! Every time I’m on set and I think, ‘whooph!’, I just think ‘well, they would have been feeling that, so embrace it.”
When and where can you watch The Singapore Grip
The wartime drama is currently showing in Britain on ITV every Sunday night at 9pm, but all six episodes of The Singapore Grip are available on worldwide streaming service Britbox.
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