Film-maker puts Croydon between heaven and hell

BELLA BARTOCK, lippie judiciously applied, has gone “up West” to view a screening of a film where purgatory is somewhere with a CR0 postcode

The screening invitation for Limbo came through. “Limbo is a feature film currently in development, a dark comedy, set between heaven and hell, in an exact replica of Croydon.”

Sigh. Another lot just cashing in on the usual Croydon-bashing following last year’s riots? I went along to find out.

What was to be shown at a glitzy venue in the West End was a 12-minute short which forms the intro to what the makers hope will be a full-length feature film. Most of the invited crowd where potential backers, plus assorted family, cast and crew.

It proved to be a pleasant surprise, very skilfully shot on the micro-budget film-maker’s camera of choice, the Canon 5D.

Especially impressive were the scenes of Croydon at night, featuring the NLA Tower lit up in red as a fiery symbol. The references to trams in the script set Croydon as the blueprint for purgatory.

The hapless hero Luke thinks he is in Croydon, until his flat mate Jin explains exactly where he is…

After the screening, I spoke to  Anna Nightingale, who plays Abby the dancer, the love interest to Angel Asfarel and Demon. She now lives in Purley.

I asked her, “Why Croydon?”

“You’ll have to ask Matt,” she said, referring to Matt McCooey, the movie’s screenwriter and director.

Actors Philip Labey and Anna Nightingale, stars of Limbo, which looks very much like Croydon

“The film probably doesn’t represent Croydon in the most positive light, but it’s a view other people have of it,” Nightingale said. “Croydon has its own identity and local people have a bond and affinity with it. Croydon is a second home to me and has a really good nightlife.

“I came on board with the film last summer. I read the script and  I really admired  a young actor having the initiative to write and direct  for himself.”

Next, I spoke to Philip Labey, who plays Luke. “Why Croydon?”

“You’ll have to ask Matt.

“It’s a great script with a great premise and I’m looking forward to filming the rest as my character gets a love interest.”

We then asked Chris Jared, who plays Israfel, “Why Croydon?”

“You’ll have to ask Matt.

“Watching it on the film tonight, it looked great. I think I’ll be paying it a visit soon,” Jared said.

“It’s a great script full of great moments, everything comes together. My character has an interesting role and is given the job of head of the choir in purgatory.”

So we spoke to Michael Ellis, the producer. “Why Croydon?”

“You’ll have to ask Matt

“I’ve known Matt since drama school, we have the same agent and met at a lot at castings and got to know each other,” Ellis said.

“I’m a trained electrician and  have spent a lot of time on set watching the crew lighting sets and was interested in the technical side. I got interested in other areas of production. I felt that rather than sitting around waiting for work we should make our own.

“Rather than be negative we wanted to keep being creative. We made a short film, Billy, last year and took it to Cannes where it was recommended and it was shown on a large screen as part of the Coup de Coer programme,” Ellis said.

“Now we’re moving from  shorts to features and had great feedback on this script so we thought ‘let’s do it ourselves’ and made Limbo as a short to get interest in making it as a feature.”

And so we caught up with Mat McCooey, who as well as writing and directing, appears in the film as Jin. “Well, Matt, everyone else said to ask you. Why Croydon?”

Finally, an answer.

“No offence is meant to Croydon or anyone who lives and works there but it is a place most people know of and can identify with.

“That building by East Croydon station, the NLA Tower, the top three floors are occupied by the Royal College of GPs. When they have practical exams they employ actors to play patients, then the students have to diagnose ailments that they pretend to have.

“When I was working there, I would take the tram from Wimbledon and see all the faces of the people travelling into this place to work, and it was like they were descending into somewhere just to work and couldn’t wait to get out again.”

Any commuter who leaves Croydon each weekday for the purgatory of London Victoria will understand what Matt says, with the glum-faced commuters on the daily train.

Screened on the large screen via Blu-ray, Croydon’s streets looked quite beautiful and I came away feeling that despite my initial concerns, this film will not be piling on the riot misery. These young film-makers want to make a quality film that pokes fun at stereotypes, rather than the spirit of Croydon.

The film-makers will be taking Limbo to the Cannes Film Festival next month.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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