This theatrical tour of tour of the Thames has been created by the Birmingham Stage Company: co-written by Horrible Histories author Terry Dreary and director Neal Foster. It fills a gap in the market by providing a boat tour of the Thames that is appealing and entertaining to children and adults alike.
Don’t come expecting a show, though, in the traditional sense. The cast of two – Molly Roberts and Jack Toland at the time I went – (six actors perform alternate tours) play the roles of school teacher and smart-arse school boy and between the two of them they reveal the “horrible histories” of the places on the Thames that the sightseeing boat “Silver Sockeye” passes as it works its way up the river from Tower Bridge Quay.
In true Horrible Histories style, the more gruesome aspects of the river’s history is revealed, including the woman who lost her family when a Victorian pleasure boat sank, only to become the second victim of Jack the Ripper. But there is also plenty of non-gruesome facts that will surprise and entertain, including the location of King Henry VIII’s wine cellar, the burial place of Boudicca and the fact that the Tower of London was the first place to have a loo.
The theatricality ramps up when the actors launch into song and the audience particularly enjoy the moment when they are all encouraged to join in with London’s Burning, complete with actions. The actors have to go at a great pace to keep up with the speed of the vessel, which may make it a little tricky to follow for speakers of English as a second language. But my kids, aged between 5 and 9 were thoroughly entertained. And having complained about the tour sounding “boring” because of the mention of the “h” word, they disembarked begging to go on the tour again “tomorrow”.
The tour is hosted aboard one of Woods Silver Fleet’s premier luxury sightseeing cruisers, which is working on a reduced capacity of 120 people per trip (normal capacity 200). The boat has been awarded Visit Britain’s ‘Good to Go’ certification which reassures visitors that appropriate Covid-19 Secure processes are in place.
The Terrible Thames Creative Team
Ashh Blackwood (
Producers – Birmingham Stage Company & Woods Silver Fleet
Writers – Terry Deary and Neal Foster
Director – Neal Foster
Design – Jacqueline Trousdale
Sound – Nick Sagar
Music – Matthew Scott
Choreography – Kenn Oldfield
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