ITV commissions The Singapore Grip, adapted by Christopher Hampton from J.G. Farrell’s classic novel

Company News February 12, 2018

ITV’s Head of Drama Polly Hill today confirmed the commission of six-part drama The Singapore Grip. Adapted from Booker Prize winner J.G. Farrell’s novel by Oscar winning screenwriter and playwright Christopher Hampton (Atonement, Dangerous Liaisons), The Singapore Grip is an epic story set during World War Two, centering on a British family living in Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion.

Singapore, 1941. Rubber merchant Walter Blackett, his wife Sylvia, ruthless daughter Joan and spoilt son Monty live a life of luxury, seemingly untouched by the troubles in Europe. With Walter’s business partner Mr Webb’s health failing, Walter needs to ensure that the future of their firm is secure. He decides that Webb’s son Matthew is the perfect match for Joan, and Joan is happy to agree, but Matthew’s idealism leaves Walter increasingly suspicious as Matthew himself falls under the spell of Vera Chiang, a mysterious Chinese refugee…

Commented Polly Hill: 

“The Singapore Grip is a portrait of a society in decline as they cling to a world that is slowly crumbling. I’m delighted to be working with Christopher Hampton and for ITV to be the home for his brilliant adaptation of J.G Farrell’s epic novel.”

The series will be executive produced by Mammoth Screen’s Damien Timmer, responsible for recent dramas including  Poldark and The Witness For The Prosecution for BBC One, NW and Parade’s End for BBC Two and Victoria, Endeavour and the forthcoming Vanity Fair for ITV.

Commented Christopher Hampton:

“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.”

Damien Timmer commented: 

“For me, J.G. Farrell and Christopher Hampton is the absolute dream team – two of the finest writers this country has ever produced. Forty years after it was first written, bringing The Singapore Grip to the screen is a passion project for all of us. It’s an exceptionally well-crafted novel which has been adapted with unique flair and mischief by Christopher. It’s a privilege to be making this for ITV, and we hope this hugely ambitious and exotic saga will be a memorable treat for the audience.”

The series will shoot in the Far East this autumn and key production personnel and casting will be announced in the coming months. Mammoth Screen’s Creative Director Rebecca Keane developed the project with Timmer and Hampton, and Karen Thrussell from Mammoth (Poldark, And Then There Were None, Witness For The Prosecution) will also executive produce.

Christopher Hampton is one of the UK’s most distinguished writers, with a career spanning six decades. His plays, musicals and translations have won four Tony Awards, three Olivier Awards, five Evening Standard Awards and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award; prizes for his film and television work include an Oscar, two BAFTAs, a Writers’ Guild of America Award, the Prix Italia and a Special Jury Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Stage work includes Tales From Hollywood, The Philanthropist and Total Eclipse, plays adapted from novels include Les Liaisons Dangereuses, translations include Art and God of Carnage from Yasmina Reza, and musicals include Sunset Boulevard. Feature films include A Dangerous Method, Atonement, The Quiet American, Carrington (which he also directed) and Dangerous Liaisons, for which he won the Oscar.

J.G. Farrell (1935 – 1979) wrote the Empire Trilogy of novels: Troubles (1970), The Siege of Krishnapur (1973) and The Singapore Grip (1978) all of which dealt with different facets of colonial rule. He received the Booker Prize in 1973, and was retrospectively awarded the Lost Man Booker Prize in 2010. He died aged 44, drowning on the coast of County Cork while fishing.

ITVS GE will be responsible for the international distribution of The Singapore Grip.