The new three-part, BBC, drama series Rillington Place was aired for the first time on Tuesday. Over the three episodes we will witness the dramatisation of the killing spree of John (Reginald) Christie between the 1940’s & 50’s. Each episode is shown from the point of view of three of the characters, the first one being that of Ethel, his wife.
John Christie was a notorious serial killer murdering six women, *spoiler alert* , including his wife. Prior to this Christie had been in and out of prison for a variety of petty crimes including theft, and later assault. He regularly visited prostitutes before, and during, his marriage. It was one of these prostitutes that he assaulted, after moving in with her; this followed the abandonment of Ethel in Sheffield whilst he moved to London.
After nine years apart, in 1933, Christie managed to persuade Ethel to move to London to live with him again. In 1938 they moved to 10 Rillington Place. Rillington Place and London were the ideal places for Christie to pursue a more sinister path, one that led to him being hanged in 1953.
Christie is played by Tim Roth, best known for his work in Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. You will also recognise him from United Passions (2014), where he played disgraced FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, and more recently the 2016 drama Reg Keys. I cannot imagine anyone else playing the part of Christie the way Roth has in this first episode. He has me completely hooked. Never have silences been so powerful and said so much, his passive aggression screaming from every part of his body. One look, one smile, that is all it takes from him to send chills down the spine. Samantha Morton’s Ethel is as equally disturbing as the silence of her oppression leaks from every pore, and fills with you with a terror that places you in her shoes.
Watching Morton’s characterisation of Ethel unfold is superbly directed and performed. The subtlety with which she expresses her frustration, distrust, and explores her own point of existence is outstanding. This is one of the stand out features of Rillington Place, the visuals. The set creates the atmosphere of the environment and the life they are living, but it is the characters that bring that to life. They move, without dialogue, in a way which makes their performance captivating.
Samantha Morton’s filmography includes: Lassie, John Carter, Minority Report, Control and most recently Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
I, for one, cannot wait for the next installment.
Writers: Ed Whitman and Tracey Malone
Directed by: Craig Viveiros