‘Ridley Road’ reviews round-up: ‘Taut period thriller’ is ‘gripping and tense’

The BBC’s new four-part adaptation of Ridley Road premiered in the UK last night!

From the executive producer of Downton Abbey and the makers of Last Tango in Halifax, the period drama series is based on Jo Bloom’s hit novel.

Ridley Road is a thriller set against the backdrop of a swinging sixties London we haven’t seen: an East End world where far right fascism is on the rise.

Joining newcomers Aggi O’Casey and Tom Varey in the cast are Rory Kinnear (Penny Dreadful), Tracy-Ann Oberman (It’s a Sin), Eddie Marsan (The Pact), Tamzin Outhwaite (EastEnders), Samantha Spiro (Game of Thrones), Danny Hatchard (EastEnders), and Rita Tushingham (Doctor Zhivago).

Watch the trailer:


The official synopsis for Ridley Road reads: “Inspired by the struggle of the 62 Group, a coalition from the Jewish community who stood up against rising neo-Nazism in post-war Britain, Ridley Road tells the story of Vivien Epstein, a young Jewish woman (played by Agnes O’Casey).

“When Vivien starts to work with them and realises that Jack, her missing boyfriend (played by Tom Varey) has been badly injured, she infiltrates the NSM, a neo-Nazi movement which is becoming increasingly prominent in London, risking everything for her beliefs and for the man she loves.”

We’ve rounded up a selection of reviews to help you decide if you’d like to watch the series:


“This is what Sunday nights have been missing … Sarah Solemani’s adaptation of Jo Bloom’s novel grabbed the viewer (well, this one anyway) by the chops from its startling opening scene, and held on until the closing credits.” ★★★★ – The Times


“At its core, the love story between Vivien and Jack is deliciously orchestrated by its two stars, and raises the story’s emotional stakes without overpowering the political context it’s set against … Plaudits are also due to Tracy Ann Oberman, who successfully steals almost every scene she’s in … A taut period thriller that maintains a vice-like grip throughout and boasts a standout first performance from O’Casey.” ★★★★ – Empire


“A tense story of anti-fascist rebellion disguised as a cosy Sunday night drama … There was a fair amount of setting up to be done in this first episode, but the groundwork was more than effectively laid for what should be a gripping and exceedingly tense series.” ★★★★ – iNews


“Despite a brilliant lead performance and a fascinating subject, this period drama about British fascism in the Sixties feels underwritten … All the ingredients are there: a fascinating period of British history, a contemporary resonance, and a lovely lead performance from an actress in her debut role. But the end product is curiously bland.” ★★★ – The Telegraph


“New BBC period drama shows that extremism needn’t arise out of extraordinary situations – it emerges from everyday life … By setting a made-up story within accurate historical context, Solemani gives herself plenty of freedom, and takes advantage of the licence. Ridley Road is an action thriller as well as a period piece, with chases, fights and romance to go with its political context.” ★★★★ – The Independent


“Fascism thriller resonates in our current dark age … even if you might wish it exhibited a bit more complexity and artistic refinement, it is a drama with resonance.” ★★★ – The Guardian


“The BBC’s new drama shines a light on British fascism in the 1960s – and the Jews who fought it … It’s not all doom and gloom, with wry moments to be expected from a writer with a comedy background.” – The Jewish Chronicle


“When depicting any true event in history on TV or in film, it is an enormous task to create a time capsule that authentically portrays the real experiences that people went through at the time. Ridley Road does manage to capture the fear that Jewish people felt in the 1960s over being targeted by antisemites and fascists, a fear that many nowadays can still relate to. The series is bolstered by the strong performances of its talented cast, among well-known names and newcomers alike.” ★★★★ – Metro


Ridley Road continues in the UK on Sunday nights at 9pm on BBC One, with all four episodes available to stream now on BBC iPlayer.

The series will air on PBS in the US in 2022.

Jo Bloom’s novel is available on Amazon.