It’s the summer of 1858, the year of the Big Stink – London’s rivers fill with sewage due to the dramatic population growth overwhelming the ageing sewer system, and the House of Commons is forced to stop sitting because of the stench.

Gangs of tunnellers who were buried with the underground rivers when the system was created by Sir Joseph Bazalgette have been living underground for more than 100 years, living off the stories and music that have seeped through the earth. But, as cracks appear in the ground, rivers start to explode into the overground world, carrying away the carefully collected stories and music of London’s past and present. The ancient tunnellers are forced to travel up into the light again to enlist the help of the overgrounders to plug the leaks of music and stories.

Source is a unique play that combines theatre, dance, circus and cabaret to bring alive the story of the forgotten rivers of London, telling stories and historic moments connecting Victorian London to pioneering philanthropists, social reformers, artists, inventors and engineers. The people of Barnet will learn about Dollis Brook and the River Brent, as well as about the legendary clown and actor Joseph Grimaldi, who lived in North Finchley in the late 1700s and early 1800s and effectively invented the form of clowning that we know today.

George Fuller is the Chicago-born circus and cabaret artist who will be leading the cast of six in the production at artsdepot next week.

“It’s part play, part spectacle, part circus,” says the 47-year-old. “We, the tunnellers, come up to the overground because the sewers are overwhelmed by the Victorian era, and we learn what’s happening above.

“Our source of water has been spoilt by the overwhelming of the system so we’re looking for a new, fresh, clean source of water. And we use different techniques to find it, incorporating dance and circus skills.

“It’s going to be an amazing outdoor theatrical experience,” continues George, “it’s like nothing you would ever have seen. There’s a big spectacle at the end, with shooting water absolutely everywhere – bring your umbrella, you’re going to get wet!”

  • Source is at artsdepot, Tally Ho Corner, Nether Street, North Finchley, on Saturday, August 30 at 3pm, after being in residency there from Tuesday, August 26. Details: 020 8369 5454,