Gin, no whores and the Whitechapel premiere

8 October 2010

I feel rather unwell today. Am not hung over, just tired, you understand.

Anyway, as I MAY have mentioned on my blog last week, I got put on the guestlist for the premiere of the ITV crime drama series Whitechapel, which is due to start screening on ITV1 on Monday at 9pm and full of excitement and clutching my fabulous new Iron Fist Werewolf bag to my bosom, I headed off yesterday to attend!

My friend Simon and I started off the evening in the White Hart on Whitechapel High Street, where we enjoyed a gin before walking down Mile End Road to the Genesis Cinema where a winding queue of people proclaimed that something exciting was afoot.

On being ushered in and then excitingly waved past the queue due to being An Important Blogger (I’m not really an important blogger, I just wrote that to see what it is like) we then walked past a fake crime scene complete with white suited forensics person, body bag and all manner of gruesome apparatus to find ourselves in a room full of people milling around a probably authentic looking crime desk and with an attending female policewoman to direct us.

Clutching our drinks, Simon and I headed into the cinema where they had thoughtfully provided free popcorn for us all and there we waited, while images of Whitechapel, the Krays and premiere attendees were shown on the screen and a rather cool looking DJ played 60s hits by, I am informed, people like The Kinks.

There was some fun when I was checking Twitter and saw the lovely WaterAndInk on my timeline say ‘Think I’ve just spotted you at the premiere’ which led to much excitement and waving!

We then settled down when a Krays expert came onstage to give a brief talk about the Krays, his book about them and his upcoming auction of Krays memorabilia. After which the executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle came up to introduce the snippet we were about to see, which was a special one and a half hour long edit of the start of the series.

It started off with the same melancholic music as Whitechapel and slick opening credits with hints of blue and sepia before opening on a police award ceremony at which it soon becomes clear that things are not exactly rosy for DI Chandler (yummy Rupert Penry-Jones) and his team.

Peter Serafinowicz is in this series playing a rival DI with hidden, dark depths. He really was exceptionally good and really chilling in places, provoking genuine shock in one scene in particular. I actually Tweeted him from the premiere to tell him that we were watching and how great he was and got what I think was a pleased reply by DM, which was nice to find on my phone in the morning when I er awoke from my perfectly sober slumbers.

Whitechapel itself was enormous fun, extremely droll in places, grotesque in others but always supremely entertaining. The script was fast paced, the acting intense and the overall ambience dark, threatening and suspenseful.

I don’t know much about the Krays (they’re a bit after ‘my’ period) but I suspect that the crime scenes were pretty authentic and suitably grotesque. I would say that it was slightly less gory than its predecessor series about a Jack the Ripper copycat, but there was blood and gore aplenty, if you like that sort of thing.

Without giving anything away, I wasn’t sure about the theme of the plot and it wasn’t always totally convincing but suspension of belief aside, it was astutely dealt with and the air of menace and paranoia was skillfully heightened throughout until the chilling and genuinely Edge Of Seat climax, which left me desperately wanting to know what happened next!

Steve Pemberton deserves a mention for his repeat portrayal of crime enthusiast and Ripperologist Buchan. His documentary about the Kray murders is genuinely hilarious and he once again turns in a performance that is both amusing and also oddly touching. Rupert Penry-Jones was fabulous too – reprising the quiet, precise almost neurotic character of Chandler but this time revealing a hint of dangerous steel beneath his well mannered, public school boy exterior.

In summary, this series of Whitechapel has at its heart the same aesthetics, themes and sinister brooding atmosphere of the original but at the same time it is very different as it evokes a real sense of the murderous paranoia of sixties London rather than the squalid Victoriana of last time. It’s definitely a must see on Monday evening.

I’d really love it if they made a third series – I passed on a suggestion to the production team that they could maybe base it on the Ratcliff Highway Murders of 1811, which I think would make for a really chilling and gripping series. We’ll have to wait and see though!

Sadly, I didn’t get to annoy Rupert Penry-Jones, although we spotted him in the cinema, as he is filming at the moment and had to rush back but we chatted to a few people after the lights came up and larked around the crime scene. I was asked to briefly review the opener on camera, but am suspecting that my performance won’t see the light of day!

After all this excitement, there was only one thing to do and that was head to the Blind Beggar, which we had just seen on screen as the scene of one of the Krays’ most notorious killings. I’d never been there before and really liked it – there’s a nice beer garden at the side, where we drank gin and chatted to people.

We then headed up the alleyway where Martha Tabram was discovered murdered in 1888 and went to the Princess Alice, my favourite pub, which has had another make over. Here we drank yet more gin and discussed huge and exciting plans for Gin and Whores. After this, things became a bit hazy but the Ten Bells, a curry house and the site of Millers Court were all visited as well.

I like to tell people that getting drunk on gin then wandering around Whitechapel at night is a very important part of the research for my book and to be honest, that is pretty much true. Yes, I see you looking disbelieving but I find the area itself hugely inspiring and it never fails to trigger all sorts of intriguing possibilities for my writing. It helps of course that I have a close personal link to the area thanks to my great grandfather being involved in the Cable Street Battle and so on.

Sadly, I forgot to take a note of the house on Commercial Street that my Jack the Ripper chasing great great great grandfather, David Lee lived in when he was an 1888 precursor to Whitechapel’s DI Chandler but will make sure I look for it next time!

Anyway, thanks so much to the publicity team for Whitechapel for letting me go to their fabulous premiere, the team behind Whitechapel for making such a great show, Simon for being, once again, the host with the er most and also the lovely people and Twitterers that I met last night. Not that we Twitterers aren’t people too, but you know what I mean.

You can find out more about Whitechapel here. It starts on Monday night at 9pm and is really rather good!