ITV’s Head of Drama Polly Hill has confirmed the commission of the period series The Singapore Grip. Based on the book in the Empire Trilogy by J.G. Farrell, The Singapore Grip is both a love story and a war story, a tale of a city under siege and a dying way of life.

The upcoming period drama deals with a British family living in the colonial state of Singapore, and is being produced by the same folks that bring us Poldark and Victoria.

The Empire Trilogy by J.G. Farrell


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What & Where: The six-part period drama focuses on a British family living in Singapore: rubber merchant Walter Blackett, his wife Sylvia, their ruthless daughter Joan and spoilt son Monty, who 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…

Who: The new television mini-series The Singapore Grip is adapted from Booker Prize winner J.G. Farrell’s novel by Oscar-winning screenwriter and playwright Christopher Hampton. He’s credited with being the writer for period dramas such as Atonement, Dangerous Liaisons, Ali and Nino, Carrington (which he also directed)and The Thirteenth Tale. Hampton is one of the UK’s most distinguished writers, with a career spanning six decades; recognition for his film and television work include an Oscar for Dangerous Liaisons, two BAFTAs, a Writers’ Guild of America Award, the Prix Italia and a Special Jury Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Author 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.

The series will be executive produced by Mammoth Screen’s Damien Timmer, responsible for some of the most successful recent period dramas including Poldark, The Witness For The Prosecution, Parade’s End, Victoria, Endeavour as well as the forthcoming Vanity Fair for ITV. 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.





When: The Singapore Grip is an epic story set in 1941, at the time of the Japanese invasion during the Second World War.

The series will shoot in the Far East this autumn and key production personnel and casting will be announced in the coming months. Sign up for our newsletter to get news about when the period drama will be released in the US. 

Why: ITV’s Head of Drama Polly Hill described The Singapore Grip as “a portrait of a society in decline as they cling to a world that is slowly crumbling.” In the novel, “life on the eve of World War II just isn’t what it used to be for Walter Blackett, head of British Singapore’s oldest and most powerful firm. No matter how forcefully the police break one strike, the locals go on strike somewhere else. Business may be booming, what with the war in Europe, the Allies are desperate for rubber and helpless to resist Blackett’s price-fixing and market manipulation, but something is wrong. No one suspects that the world of the British Empire, of fixed boundaries between classes and nations, is about to come to a terrible end.”

The series’ screenwriter Christopher Hampton said the story is “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 enjoyed this post, be sure to see The Period Films List. You’ll also want to see the news about the upcoming adaptations of Vanity Fair and Pride and Prejudice

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