BBC One has confirmed an October release date for its upcoming drama adaptation Ridley Road.
The trailer for the series was also recently released, teasing a suspenseful story about a young Jewish woman, who goes undercover inside a facist organisation in the 1960s.
The four-part drama is based on Jo Bloom’s novel of the same name, which was first published back in 2015, and stars newcomer Agnes O’Casey in the lead role of Vivien Epstein.
After penning an episode of HBO’s acclaimed comedy drama Barry in 2018, actor Sarah Solemani has now taken on the challenge of translating Ridley Road from page to screen.
The recently released trailer looks very promising indeed, featuring what could be a major breakout role for O’Casey as well as supporting roles for the likes of Eddie Marsan, Tracy Ann-Oberman and Rory Kinnear as real-life fascist Colin Jordan.
Read on for everything we know so far about the BBC’s long-awaited drama Ridley Road.
Ridley Road release date
Ridley Road will premiere on Sunday 3rd October on BBC One at 9pm, and will be released as a box set on BBC iPlayer.
The project has been a long time coming, first announced all the way back in August 2019, with production delayed by the onset of the pandemic early the following year.
Fortunately, filming did eventually get started in September 2020, with the finished series set to deliver four hour-long episodes of suspenseful drama.
Ridley Road cast
Newcomer Agnes O’Casey is making her television debut as Vivien Epstein, with her previous work being on stage productions with Irish drama school The Lir Academy.
Speaking about her casting, she said: “Sarah Solemani has blown me away with the detail, sensitivity, and complexity with which she has written Vivien. I can’t wait to bring this vital and little-known story to life.”
Tom Varey (Game of Thrones) plays love interest Jack Morris, while Rory Kinnear will portray real-life fascist Colin Jordan, who led the NSM and was a prominent far-right voice until his death in 2009.
On the flipside, Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan) plays the fictional Soly Malinovsky, leader of an antifascist organisation by the name of 62 Group, who sends Vivien on her dangerous mission.
The supporting Ridley Road cast includes Tracy-Ann Oberman (Friday Night Dinner), Samantha Spiro (Sex Education), Tamzin Outhwaite (EastEnders) and Rita Tushingham (A Taste of Honey).
Ridley Road plot
Based on Jo Bloom’s novel, the story is inspired by the struggle of the 62 Group, a coalition of anti-fascists who stood up against rising neo-Nazism in post-war Britain.
Set in 1962, Ridley Road unfolds from the perspective of young Jewish woman Vivien Epstein, who moves from Manchester to East London after the death of her father.
She attempts to track down Jack Morris, a man with whom she once had an intense love affair, but with little information to go on she is unsuccessful – at first.
After bagging a job at a hair salon in Soho, Vivien becomes involved in London’s anti-fascist movement and is selected to infiltrate the National Socialist Movement (NSM), a neo-Nazi group set up by Colin Jordan.
It’s a dangerous mission that will bring her face-to-face with the leader himself as well as her lost love, Jack, with screenwriter Solemani hoping it will bring awareness to the threat of fascism in the UK today.
“Britain’s relationship with fascism is closer and more alive than we like to think,” she said in a statement. “Luckily, so is our rich heritage of fighting it.
“Jo Bloom’s gripping book revealed a darker side of sixties London and the staggering contribution the Jewish community made in the battle against racism. I am thrilled to be working with [production company] Red and the BBC to bring this little-known slice of British history to the screen.”
The BBC synopsis reads: “Ridley Road is a thriller set against the backdrop of a swinging sixties London we haven’t seen: an East End world where far right fascism is on the rise.
“When Vivien Epstein follows her lover into danger and he is caught between life and death, Vivien finds herself going undercover with the fascists, not only for him but for the sake of her country.”
Is Ridley Road based on a true story?
While the story of Ridley Road involving Vivien Epstein and lover Jack Morris is fictional, the backdrop against which it is set is very much drawn from real history.
In the 1960s, fascism was on the rise in East London – where Ridley Road is located – fuelled by the disgusting comments and actions of Colin Jordan’s National Socialist Movement.
The 62 Group was a real organisation created in response to anti-semitic attacks that had started to become more frequent, taking action in a variety of ways including planting informers within fascist groups.
The most well-known incident in the war between these groups occurred in 1962 at Trafalgar Square, where Jordan’s attempt to hold a fascist and anti-semitic rally led to a riot.
Ridley Road trailer
The BBC revealed a teaser trailer for Ridley Road in September 2021, introducing O’Casey’s protagonist and Rory Kinnear as real-life neo-Nazi leader, Colin Jordan. Watch below. Also, get a taste for the show’s music with the full Ridley Road soundtrack.