Last Updated on May 15, 2022
This May, a stellar cast brings the turmoil of 1960s London to life in “Ridley Road,” a spellbinding new miniseries.
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In the summer of 1962, a Jewish spy fights for her life in the British period drama airing on PBS MASTERPIECE.
London is swinging with new music, hip fashions, and an irresistible hedonistic spirit. It’s also seething with antisemitic violence incited by homegrown neo-Nazis. Read on for details about the cast, plot, episode descriptions, and to watch the trailer.
MASTERPIECE presents a riveting drama set in this colorful but tumultuous time on Ridley Road (2021), based on Jo Bloom’s acclaimed novel and airing in four parts, Sundays, May 1 – May 22, on PBS.
Inspired by true events, “Ridley Road” stars newcomer Agnes O’Casey as Vivien Epstein, a young Jewish hairdresser who fits right into 1962 London’s mod scene, while secretly infiltrating the British neo-Nazi hierarchy on behalf of Jewish antifascists.
O’Casey is joined by Rory Kinnear (The Imitation Game,Penny Dreadful) as Colin Jordan, the real-life leader of Britain’s post-World War II Nazi movement; Tom Varey (Game of Thrones, The Village) as Jack, Vivien’s true love, who mysteriously disappears at the outset of the series; Eddie Marsan (Little Dorrit, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) as Vivien’s cagey uncle Soly, a secret operative for the 62 Group, which is combatting the resurgence of fascism; and Tracy-Ann Oberman (After Life, Grantchester) as Soly’s shrewd wife, Nancy.
Politics is the last thing on Vivien’s mind when she flees a proposed arranged marriage in Manchester to find Jack, whom her parents deplore. Little does she know that Jack has been recruited by the 62 Group in London as a mole to infiltrate the National Socialist Movement, a fascist party promoting violent antisemitism and racism.
Before she knows it, Vivien is also recruited—with the mission of finding out what has happened to Jack.
The assignment requires her to change her look, her name, and her personality, becoming an apparent Nazi and ardent admirer of the movement’s charismatic leader, Jordan. She is far more successful than anyone dreamed possible, which pulls her deeper and deeper into a vicious lion’s den of intrigue.
Also appearing are Rita Tushingham (Doctor Zhivago, The Pale Horse) as Nettie, Vivien’s right-wing landlady; Tamzin Outhwaite (EastEnders, Great Expectations) as Barbara, the gutsy manager at the Soho hairdressing salon where Vivien lands a job; and Gabriel Akuwudike (War of the Worlds, 1917) as Barbara’s son, Stevie, a leftist law student who gets the wrong idea about Vivien’s politics.
London is famous for its swinging era in the early sixties that launched a worldwide, youth-centered cultural revolution. Largely forgotten is the concurrent rise of extreme nationalist politics that seemed poised to take over the county—the movement portrayed in the new British period drama “Ridley Road.”
When it premiered across the pond, British TV critics were transfixed by the miniseries. The Guardian called it “a drama with resonance.” The Independent raved, “Ridley Road is an action thriller as well as a period piece, with chases, fights and romance to go with its political context.”
And the London Times enthused, “What makes Ridley Road a joy to watch is not only the stellar cast, but the storytelling,” adding, “It is beautifully crafted, weaving in archive footage, making it look as if Vivien is actually in Sixties London.”
Episode Descriptions & Airtimes
Episode One: Sunday, May 1, 2022; 9-10pm ET on PBS
London in the swinging sixties is a hive of violent antisemitism, as Jewish hairdresser Vivien learns when she arrives in search of her beau, Jack.
Episode Two: Sunday, May 8, 2022; 9-10pm ET on PBS
Now undercover, Vivien strives to convince neo-Nazi leader Colin Jordan that she is on his side. Her spying turns up an alarming development.
Episode Three: Sunday, May 15, 2022; 9-10pm ET
Vivien’s link to Jordan is complicated by the arrival of his wife. The police rebuff warnings from the 62 Group, who must act on their own.
Episode Four: Sunday, May 22, 2022; 9-10pm ET
As Vivien’s deception starts to crumble, she races to secure incriminating evidence against Jordan. Meanwhile, Jack faces mortal danger.
All episodes will stream online for free for a short period of time after they air. To see if an episode is still available, visit this page.
If you enjoyed this post, wander over to The Period Films List for suggestions of other British period dramas to watch.