But Webb’s getting on a bit, and Walter needs somebody
to succeed his legacy (sound familiar?). Will it be the goofy, cartoonish son
or the intelligent and borderline sociopathic daughter?
Charles Dance as Mr Webb. Photo: ITV
first episode is titled Singapore For Beginners, which suggests a kind
of enlightening introduction to the country and its relevance. But
this education is summarised within the first two minutes, in the style of
those old black-and-white newsreels announced by loud, pompous voices. It isn’t
enough time to confidently grasp Singapore’s political significance during this
fraught time in human history. Hardly for beginners.
you get the gist: white, upper-class, British colonisers exploiting the local
resources, carrying over their wealth and their prejudices. Walter symbolises
the capitalist agenda, his ’40s moustache drooping whenever he comes across anything
which is – in his eyes – impolitely foreign.
He wants the best rubber deals
possible, secured once his daughter Joan (Georgia Blizzard) starts dating a
military man (Bart Edwards) who’s in the know. He pretty much pimps her out for
the business, and she’s more than happy to oblige. In the meantime, Chinese
woman Vera Chiang (Elizabeth Tan) appears on the scene, who Joan remembers from
an anti-Japanese riot in 1937 (another conflict that’s barely explained).
Elizabeth Tan plays Vera Chiang. Photo: ITV
a befuddling tonal balance throughout the episode. Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher
Hampton (Atonement, Dangerous Liaisons) and Doctor Foster director
Tom Vaughan pursue with the objective of satire, but without any noticeable
jokes. It seems most of the intended humour squeezes from the family’s outrageously
posh personalities, speaking the sort of comedy accents only heard in classic
British war movies.
The soundtrack uses annoyingly repetitive jazz music, announcing
the constant ping-pong of irritating family members and shady business deals.
Matthew Webb (Luke Treadaway), Joan Blackett (Georgia Blizzard), and Monty Blackett (Luke Newberry). Photo: ITV
the characters and performances are attractive enough to pursue to the end, of this episode at least. The enigmatic introduction of Matthew Webb (Luke Treadaway), Mr Webb’s
son, could offer some curiosity to continue with the series. He appears at
the top of the episode, set six months in front of the present, with a face
affected by dirt and war. He becomes the greatest threat to Walter’s desired monopoly
These opening elements of severity, overlooking the aftermath of a
battle (again: what battle?), crash hard against the series’ supposed satire.
Singapore Grip has its sexy,
Sunday night, period-drama appeal (even from Charles Dance, who’s very ripped
for 73 years old) but the plot is lost in waves of confusion about context,
undulating across a country you learn almost nothing about. Towards the end of the
episode when Matthew enters Singapore, he’s ambiguously told by the pilot to
watch out for the ‘Singapore Grip’ with no further explanation. This critic is
in no hurry to find out more.
The Singapore Grip airs on Sunday 13 September at 9pm on ITV
|What||The Singapore Grip, ITV, episode 1 review|
13 Sep 20 – 13 Sep 21, ON ITV