Review by Daz Gale
London is full of history and a quick boat trip along the Thames will take you right through the heart of the last few centuries. Using the school holidays as a perfect time to continue educating (or torturing) children, Terrible Thames is the latest production from Horrible Histories to continue their unique blend of educational material, gruesome facts and all around fun. Sounds anything but terrible, doesn’t it. At the very least, what’s the worst that can happen?
The answer to that question is it takes place in London… in April. The weather was bound to be as uncertain as your fate if you married Henry VIII. Sure enough, sitting on the uncovered upper level of a boat with Gale force winds (the irony considering my surname is not lost on me) and torrential rain didn’t make for the most comfortable of experiences but that is the risk you are forced to take with something like this and, as we found out along the trip, worse things have happened along the Thames. To the performers credit though, this apocalyptic weather didn’t phase them one bit and only spurred them on to keep going in a true testament to the phrase “The show must go on”. When it was clearly all getting a bit too much, the “shipmates” were redeployed to the lower deck for a much warmer and dryer experience. This actually worked in the shows favour as it created a more dynamic and immersive experience – but take it from someone who did not dress appropriately for the trip – if you do go, wrap up warm… and bring a poncho.
Through a speedy 45 minutes, two expert performers guide a boat full of passengers down the Thames from London Bridge to Westminster and back again, reciting the kind of facts they might not teach you in school. With plenty of toilet humour and just the right level of descriptive violence, it is tailor made for a young audience – though there are a few knowing winks to the adults among the group that will thankfully fly over the heads of the younger people there.
Two members of a revolving cast of nine will be your guides during the trip. For my one, we had Roger Parkins and Harriet Munday who were both fantastic as they battled the weather while keeping professionalism up. You get the feeling you will be in safe hands, no matter which two of this talented bunch you get as they navigated us through history, London and the elements effortlessly. The way they interact with both children and adults throughout lends itself to an immersive feel which ensures everyone feels involved – so there’s no excuses when it comes to a bit of audience participation later on.
The writing by Terry Deary and Neal Foster is in keeping with the Horrible Histories brand – well written with just the right balance of education, history, fun and laughter, it creates a joyous and unpredictable ride that had everybody floating with happiness. Never before has learning been so much fun! Music from Matthew Scott provided a few surprising singalong elements which had us all believing we were pirates before the 45 minutes were up.
A short but sweet magical whizz-stop tour of London, Terrible Thames is the perfect way to spend just shy of an hour and is guaranteed fun for kids of all ages (that includes fully grown big kids like myself). There is definitely nothing terrible about this terrific show.
Terrible Thames sets sail until 29th October. Tickets from https://terriblethames.seetickets.com/
Photos by Danny Kaan