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Diary: Cabbies follow theatrical routes of knowledge

Maureen Lipman is directing The Knowledge. Photo: Elliott Franks
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A new West End show has gained an unlikely following – of London taxi drivers.

The Knowledge, directed by Maureen Lipman, was written by her late husband Jack Rosenthal. It introduces audiences to the notorious London Knowledge test, which black cab drivers must pass to gain their licence.

Lipman said: “[The play] shows the years of pain, strain and sacrifice that London cabbies have to endure to acquire the Knowledge, pass the world’s toughest and most terrifying taxi examinations and earn the right to wear the Green Badge.”

Not-for-profit TAXIAPP, a mobile app run by a cooperative of drivers “who are passionate about bringing ethics back to the city’s transport”, is sponsoring the show. The TAXIAPP founders have all undergone the Knowledge, a test that takes drivers up to fours years to pass. This is hardly a surprise considering the driver must learn 320 routes within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. Cabbies are also expected to know 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks in London.

Tabard has often been impressed by actors’ ability to learn lines for a lengthy play, but that seems like a piece of cake in comparison to what a cabbie has to go through.