Gareth Huw Davies

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Thames play based on Dickens flows through National Theatre

In London Tide, the National Theatre comes as close to the subject matter of one of its plays as it ever has. The River Thames flows serenely, endlessly, within metres of the theatre, with a timely, imperceptible pause twice a day when the tide turns. So many writers have turned what, in terms of the numbers who can reach it, is our most those accessible geographic feature into words. None was greater than Charles Dickens, and no book more steeped in river water than his Our Mutual Friend.

The National describes London Tide, based on Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend. as ‘a hymn to the city and the river that runs through it’.  Playwright Ben Power is credited as having ‘adapted’ the book. PJ Harvey wrote the songs.

The NT’s website sets the scene:

 ‘A storm rages and, in the darkest part of the night, a body is pulled from the swirling Thames.

‘Across the city, two young women confront an uncertain future. In Limehouse, Lizzie Hexam struggles to break free of the river and its dark secrets. On the other side of town, Bella Wilfer mourns a lost marriage. The appearance of the mysterious John Rokesmith has the potential to change their lives for ever. Will they sink or swim?

“This romantic and propulsive thriller is a hymn to the city and the river that runs through it.”

I think the Thames is a remarkable thing, a powerful force of history, geography, nature and people, from its first gurgling in Gloucestershire to its widest estuarial reaches. It grows and grows, until in London it becomes a great river.

I wrote A Walk Along the Thames Path (Michael Joseph, 1990). “An account of the author’s walk along the entire length of the Thames, from its source to the Thames barrier. Written in an anecdotal, discursive manner, and filled with the characters he meets along the route.”  

London Tide runs until June 22nd, 2024.