ITV’s adaptation of JG Farrell’s 1978 satirical novel The Singapore Grip has been penned by Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton, and takes a blackly comic look at the British Empire in colonial-era Singapore.
Set in World War II, the drama tells the story of a British family living in 1940s Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion, who find their trading company under threat.
“I must say it was possibly the most enjoyable job I’ve had for, oh, for years and years and years,” Hampton told RadioTimes.com in a discussing about adapting The Singapore Grip for screen. “It was just sheer pleasure doing it, and digging into the book and trying to work out how to make it real and stay faithful to it.”
Series star Luke Treadaway (who plays Matthew Webb) also told us that he hoped the series might help educate viewers about the misdeeds of the British Empire.
“We owe it to our kids, and the future of our whole planet really, to not sugar-coat history and just cherrypick and show moments of valour from our fighting troops,” he said.
The series is executive produced by Mammoth Screen’s Damien Timmer, the man behind several other recent hits including Poldark, Victoria and Endeavour.
Read our four-star The Singapore Grip review and its “gentle satire on British colonialism”.
Here’s everything you need to know about the series…
When is The Singapore Grip on TV?
The series will air from Sunday 13th September on ITV at 9pm, as part of the broadcaster’s Autumn 2020 lineup of programming.
The series began filming in March 2019. Where was the Singapore Grip filmed? Follow the link for a full guide to the show’s shooting locations.
What is The Singapore Grip about?
J.G. Farrell’s The Singapore Grip was published in 1978, a year before his death aged 44. The satirical novel centres on a British family who control one of the colony’s leading trading companies, following their story in the aftermath of Japan’s entry into the Second World War and the occupation of Singapore.
Oscar-winning screenwriter and playwright Christopher Hampton (of Atonement and Dangerous Liaisons fame) has adapted the novel into a six-part series starring Luke Treadaway, David Morrissey and Charles Dance.
Treadaway plays the “reluctant hero and innocent abroad” Matthew Webb, while Morrissey stars as the “ruthless rubber merchant” Walter Blackett, head of British Singapore’s oldest and most powerful firm alongside his business partner Mr Webb (Dance).
“Matthew is sent for to come and visit his dying father,” Treadaway explained to us. “And he arrives in Singapore with very different views to Walter, and very different views to a lot of people who were sort of, those people who were running business empires during the time of the Empire.
According to ITV’s synopsis, “With Webb’s health failing, Walter needs to ensure the future of their firm is secure. He decides Webb’s son Matthew is the perfect match for his spoilt daughter Joan (Georgia Blizzard). Matthew’s idealism leaves Walter increasingly suspicious as Matthew himself falls under the spell of Vera Chiang (Elizabeth Tan), a mysterious Chinese refugee.”
Screenwriter Christopher Hampton said: “As a great admirer and, eventually, a friend of J.G.Farrell, I was delighted to be invited to adapt The Singapore Grip, a panoramic account of the disastrous loss of Singapore to the Japanese invaders in 1942.
“Close analysis of this great novel has only deepened my enthusiasm for the skill with which Farrell has combined the private story of the machinations, commercial and amorous, of the Blackett family and their struggle – described with Farrell’s trademark subversive wit – to preserve and expand their prosperous rubber business with the unfolding of the cataclysmic events to which they remain totally oblivious until it’s too late.
“Matthew Webb, our bespectacled protagonist, an idealistic innocent abroad, lands in the middle of all this, to find himself fiercely pursued by two beautiful women – an English heiress and a Chinese adventurer – and his story, with its tumultuous backdrop, is told in a style with echoes of Tolstoy and Evelyn Waugh, but still, unmistakably, the unique voice of Jim Farrell.”
If you’re wondering about the meaning behind the show’s title, here’s what the Singapore Grip means.
Who is in the cast of The Singapore Grip?
Here’s who makes up the Singapore Grip cast.
Olivier Award-winning actor Luke Treadaway has starred in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Ordeal by Innocence, and Traitors. He is set to play Matthew Webb.
Best known for roles in The Missing, Britannia, and The Walking Dead, David Morrissey will star as Walter Blackett. Charle Dance, who starred as Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones, will play Mr Webb.
Also joining the cast are Little Voice and Ab Fab star Jane Horrocks (as Sylvia Blackett), In the Flesh actor Luke Newberry, Star Trek actor Colm Meaney, as well as Peep Show’s Bart Edwards, and the actor Christoph Guybert. Georgia Blizzard plays the role of Joan, while Corrie star Elizabeth Tan plays Vera.
Follow the link to discover which Singapore Grip characters are based on real people.