‘The Singapore Grip’ reviews round-up: ‘Ambitious, subversive’ and ‘sumptuous’

ITV’s new adaptation of The Singapore Grip begins in the UK tonight.

Based on J.G. Farrell’s classic novel, the six-part mini-series comes from the makers of Poldark and Victoria.

The Singapore Grip is set during World War II and follows a British family living in Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion.

The cast includes Luke Treadaway (Ordeal By Innocence), David Morrissey (Britannia), Jane Horrocks (Absolutely Fabulous), Colm Meaney (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Elizabeth Tan (Coronation Street), and Charles Dance (Game of Thrones).

The official synopsis reads: “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…”

We’ve rounded up a selection of reviews for the first episode to help you decide if you’d like to watch the show:


“ITV’s sumptuous new six-part ITV drama … is a satire, poking fun at the leading lights of the British Empire who party on, obliviously, as danger approaches. And in a gentle way, it’s really quite funny! In tone, there’s something of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 about it all, though nowhere near as biting …” ★★★★ – Radio Times


“This is a watchable show – the gorgeous locations in Malaysia are an aesthetic treat – and the lavish 1940s costumes will reel in the viewers, offering up some easy Sunday night escapism to ease them into a new week. There’s no disputing how wonderful The Singapore Grip all looks, however, the tone feels wildly out of step with the global conversations around representation and diversity onscreen and off…” – The Daily Express


“It can’t decide how sharp to be, veering between a Catch-22-style black comedy about the horrors of war and a jolly-old-marriage farce … Glossy as they are, the sets and costumes and extras and CGI Japanese bombers can’t add much to this uneasy picture.” ★★ – The Independent


“An ambitious, subversive period drama that lacks bite … The Singapore Grip aspires to be more than just your standard period drama fare, and it most certainly achieves that aim.” ★★★ – Metro


“A very British wartime drama (with lots of cocktails).” – The Times


“…the fact that the story is supposed to be satire makes it all the more strange that it lacks any bite. It’s all very Sunday evening … This is a middling drama that fails to deliver what it promises, and it is all rather frothy.” ★★ – The Guardian


“Even with its social commentary, the series has an easy vibe, akin to period programs such as Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries or Mr Selfridge, and it’s a very digestible experience, especially when you also factor in the lush production design and costuming. The Singapore Grip doesn’t quite burrow its way into your consciousness but it does enough to be perfectly diverting and surprisingly relevant.” – News.com.au


The Singapore Grip has its sexy, Sunday night, period-drama appeal (even from Charles Dance, who’s very ripped for 73 years old) but the plot is lost in waves of confusion about context, undulating across a country you learn almost nothing about.” ★★★ – Culture Whisper


The Singapore Grip continues airing at 9pm on Sunday nights on ITV this autumn.

A broadcaster in the US hasn’t yet been announced.

J.G. Farrell’s novel The Singapore Grip is available to buy on Amazon.