It’s back and bolder than ever – VAULT Festival 2018, running until 18 March 2018. Theatre editor Daniel Perks catches up with writer and performer Imogen Butler-Cole, bringing Foreign Body to this year’s festival:

VAULT Festival 2018 – it was one of my Theatre Picks to kick off the year. It’s London’s biggest arts festival, taking place in a series of subterranean tunnels beneath Waterloo station, as well as expanding into the nearby Waterloo East Theatre and Network Theatre. Now in its sixth year, it promises to be an eight-week cultural nerve centre, inviting audiences to over 300 shows.

Here at Miro Magazine, we are incredibly excited by the biggest offering that The Vaults has ever seen – we have already picked our top shows that should not be missed! Throughout the festival, we will be profiling some of the shows playing this year – getting to know the theatre companies and performers that are bringing work to London’s version of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Next up in our Spotlight feature is Foreign Body, which plays VAULT Festival from 7 – 11 March 2018. I caught up with writer and performer Imogen Butler-Cole:

Describe Foreign Body in three words.

Raw, Urgent, Hopeful.

Is this your first VAULT Festival performance experience?

Yes! I’m loving the energy of the festival – there are so many vibrant young companies to watch, to meet and to learn from. I have been delightfully surprised by the support from ReVAULT, the group of female-led companies. I felt in the beginning like it might be rather impersonal as there are just so many of us here, but I have found it to be quite the opposite. I’m sure I am meeting people now that I will go on to collaborate with, and form deeper friendships with, in the future.

Who else are you most looking forward to seeing while at the VAULT Festival?

I’m on in the second-to-last week so a lot of brilliant stuff has already happened. I particularly loved Revelations by James Rowland and Daniel Goldman and Bicycles and Fish by Katie Arnstein. With Daniel Goldman. He has his fingers in all the pies that boy.

Everything else on my radar is from the ReVAULT companies: Good Girl by Naomi Sheldon, Boots from Butcher and Dee, Things That Do Not C(o)unt by Nastazja Somers, Paper. Scissors. Stone. by Katie Bonna, Ok, Bye from Red Belly Black and Big Bad by Jodi Gray are all bound to knock your socks off.

Who or what are your inspirations?

Foreign Body is about healing after sexual assault – it tells my own story, those of eight other survivors and that of the perpetrator of one of my assaults, all through verbatim interviews with the actual people. So this play is very much about representing the voices of survivors who are not able to tell their own stories for whatever reason.

I started the piece long before the #MeToo movement gained momentum and I am hugely inspired by all the people who have finally begun to speak up. The simultaneous raising of voices has been very affirming both personally and for the piece itself. Through making the play I have had the fortune to meet a group of the most extraordinary people – survivors, campaigners, support workers – who have been doing this stuff in the shadows for decades. I now feel like I’m part of that gang and I can tell you they’re the best gang around.

Beyond this it is often rage that keeps me going. It gives me energy. When something gets me riled I just throw that energy into pushing the play out there even harder. I know the play is a strong force for good so I need to make sure it is seen by as many people as possible. By survivors who need to see their experiences reflected, validated and held; by people who know survivors but don’t know how to communicate with them; and by people who might need to examine their own actions a little more carefully and avoid making mistakes moving forward.

What are the future plans for Foreign Body?

Funding dependent I will be touring India in August and September. I lived and worked there in theatre and women’s rights for some years, so know that this play is as necessary there as it is here. My vision is to create mini festivals in each city so that I can showcase local work (theatre, film, dance, exhibitions etc) around the theme of sexual violence. I shall return to tour the UK in October and November, which I am coordinating at the moment. I’d also love to take it to the States at some point but plans for that are less developed at the moment.

What is the best production you have seen in the last 12 months?

Last night I saw Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette at Soho Theatre and I actually think it might have been the perfect show. It’s officially stand-up but it channels more righteous and galvanising rage than I have ever seen in any form. It’s hilarious, of course, but leaves gaping spaces for Hannah to go much deeper than stand-up in its pure form would allow. I urge everyone to see it and believe there are a handful of tickets left for several of the shows.

Is there anything else you want to highlight about Foreign Body?

The thing I am most excited about for this run are the panel discussions, which will follow every performance. I am quite bowled over by all the amazing people who are going to come and speak. I have themed each discussion and there will be plenty of space for the audience to process what they have seen and to think about what self-care they may need when they leave the space. The panels are:


Writer & Performer: Imogen Butler-Cole

Director: Fran Moulds

Composer: Tara Franks and Filipe Sousa

Design: Ana Ines Jabares Pita; Ali Hunter (lighting); Tara Franks and Filipe Sousa (sound)

Foreign Body plays as part of VAULT Festival 2018 from 7 – 11 March 2018. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.