A Complete History Of London @ The Draft House – A Review

Just down the street from Tower Bridge you’ll find the Draft House pub. Entertaining visitors down in their basement until 24 April is a rather bold experiment in story-telling – A Complete History Of London, which in one hour precisely takes you all the way from the time when London was just another part of the ocean bed right up to the present day and Boris’s current shennanigans.

A Complete History Of London is the first play by Tim Chapman, who left his banking job with Barclays to become a playwright, but fortunately it doesn’t feel like a first attempt. In fact taken as a whole I thought it came across as tightly scripted and mature with some genuinely hilarious moments – the audience certainly spent much of the time screaming with laughter. That’s a pretty solid indication of its comic potential!

The show involves a rotating cast of three characters who, through a series of lightning-fast costume changes, introduce us to the Romans, the Angles, the Saxons, the Stewarts and the Tudors via the Black Plague, the Great Fire of London and other important moments in London’s history – even the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 gets in on the act as does that slimy conspirator, Guido Fawkes…

Much of the middle of A Complete History Of London is taken up with a combination of encounters between Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh and the Noble Bard, and it is this section that provides much of the amusement although that does come at a price. I doubt that many of the tourists going to see the show will pick up on it but I did think that this was a little derivative of Black Adder – the portrayal of a lisping, capricious Queen and nervous courtiers will always bring Rowan Atkinson’s work to mind…

What I enjoyed most of all about A Complete History Of London was the last three minutes, which was the amount of time alloted for the cast to cover the last three hundred years of London’s history. A big ask you might think, and made all the more difficult because these one hundred and eighty seconds involved rapid-fire rhyming couplets that bounced around between them – a superb piece of writing and worth a standing ovation at the end of the show in anyone’s book.

Tickets for A Complete History Of London are priced at £14.50, with performances daily at 1pm and 3pm – perfect to break up your day if you’ve spent the morning at the Tower Of London or somewhere along the Southbank. You’ll find tickets online here.