Sam Lewes reviews Bullshit London (Factually Incorrect Walking Tours)
If you’ve spent any time in central London, specifically Westminster and the Southbank over the past few years, you’ll no doubt have had the irritable task of trudging past a tour group, wishing that they would get out of the way and stop appreciating the city you’re so keen to sweep through. Bulllshit London is as far removed from that mould as you can imagine. This is a ‘walking tour’ in name only, with little in common to those experienced by bussed-in tourists. This is a tour that will appeal to locals and visitors alike, and far from asking you to gawp and stare in excitement at dilapidated phone booths or anything prefixed by ‘HM’, Bullshit London invites you to laugh.
At its most simple, this is a walking stand-up comedy experience. Reuben acts as your host and the MC of Bullshit, guiding you through the streets of London and cracking jokes as he goes. Or rather cracking bullshit, for whilst many jokes do draw laughs, some are simply absurdities, as if watching someone play a word association game with the city’s landmarks. Yes, they may very much meet the definition of ‘Bullshit’ but there’s just not that much joy to be had in hearing nonsense if it isn’t funny. For that reason the tour is occasionally in danger of becoming people watching by proxy.
A walking tour is an especially brave format for comedy, with no hiding space it compels our Bullshit Leader to grin maniacally and spin off to the next landmark at the end of each punchline. What’s quickly obvious is that the tour’s best bits lie in interaction – between Reuben, the group and occasionally the unsuspecting public. Bullshit London recognises this and audience participation forces those in attendance to try their hand at comedy, jazz and even erotic poetry. The barrage of jokes works so much better with a bit of back and forth that you can understand why the tours used to be led by a duo, with Reuben accompanied by Rob as the Duopoly of Bullshit. However, with Rob down the rabbit hole of travelling fringe theatre, Reuben is left to do it alone, removing a level of interaction which could have made a real difference.
This is a great concept that I was keen to love and it’s uniqueness is certainly a selling point I wouldn’t want to underplay. The games are great fun, the jokes are fired at you with pace, and I’ll be sure to steal the one about the Russian Church containing a series of ever-smaller churches inside it. However there’s only so much value in hearing someone chat bull to you, and unless it’s making you laugh from beat to beat there’s always the sense that it would be just as good to walk around with your mates, well, bullshitting.