It’s back and bolder than ever – VAULT Festival 2018, running until 18 March 2018. Theatre editor Daniel Perks catches up with assistant producer Esmee West-Agboola, bringing Big Bad 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 Big Bad, which plays VAULT Festival from 14 – 18 March 2018. I caught up with assistant producer Esmee West-Agboola:

Describe Big Bad in three words.

Feminist. Horror. Comedy.

Is this your first VAULT Festival performance experience?

For some of the team it is! This is Jodi’s first production at VAULT Festival – it is such an incredible, accessible, magical place and we’ve all long been fans of the platform they give to both emerging and established artists. And it’s bloody perfect for the world premiere of Big Bad, which is literally set underground in an abandoned basement in London – I mean, the atmosphere is already there for us, it’s just a matter of adding the extra spooks! The support and encouragement both from the festival organisers and others shows has been overwhelming – the Big Bad team have been hanging out with the Re:Vault ladies, a collective of the female-led shows and artists programmed this year, and it’s been incredibly inspiring to feel part of something  so supportive and flippin kick-ass.

Deirdre (director) and Sarah (producer) were part of the creative team on last year’s sold-out immersive members only bar The ‘Neath, which had similarly spooky and supernatural vibes but was comprised of a much larger cast. The ‘Neath was an interactive performance made in collaboration with some of the top immersive theatre makers in London, while Big Bad is a one-woman show with highly atmospheric storytelling.

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

Some of our favourite shows have been and gone already, but they’re all worth mentioning cuz we’re sure they’re going to have a further life after the festival – and hey it’s a long list, but it’s a phenomenal line-up this year: Foreign Body by Imogen Butler-Cole, OK, Bye by the Red Belly Black, Surprise! By Lauren Silver, Things That Do Not C(o)unt by Nastazja Somers, All Boxed Up by Sammy Kissin, The Strongbox by Stephanie Jacob, Good Girl by Naomi Sheldon, If We Had Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You by John O’Donovan, I Have a Mouth and I Will Scream by Abi Zakarian and Rogue Productions & SPECIFIQ’s Ruckus.

And lastly, we’ve got some lupine brothers and sisters at VAULT this year, so we’re also very excited about Lewis Doherty’s WOLF and Rebecca HumphriesRed/Wolf.

Who or what are your inspirations?

As a team, we all love telling an excellent story – great theatre making is as simple (or as complicated) as that. When we first set out to make a ‘feminist horror comedy’ the Harvey Weinstein scandal had just hit the press, but as women working in the industry we were all too familiar with stories of abuse and gender discrimination and these conversations made us want to respond with work that was not only female-led in its content, but also led by a predominantly female creative team.

Big Bad is a story about one woman’s imprisonment and transformation. As a creative team, we have been driven to explore the horror genre from a feminist perspective and embrace this tale with humour and fear in equal measure – because in many ways, that is how we have been collectively experiencing the world in recent months, as complex and transforming. There is something about Big Bad that feels incredibly necessary to us and we hope that our audience will agree.

What are the future plans for Big Bad?

Like most companies at VAULT, we definitely see Big Bad having a future life. We’ve got some plans afoot, and some London theatres in mind that would allow us to turn the horror dial right up to eleven – and also we think it’s a story that should tour and be heard by an audience outside the capital as well. It’s no surprise to us that there is a marked increase in feminist programming at VAULT Festival this year and audiences are hungry for complex female characters exploring sexuality, power and politics.

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

Annie Baker’s John at the National Theatre is simply outstanding. Each of the individual performances were nuanced and exciting, Baker’s writing is brave and has such a powerful sense of style, and the set and props have such a haunting life that they feel like their own fifth character. We can’t remember the last time we left the theatre and continued to talk about a show for the next two weeks.  Get a ticket – you won’t regret it.

Is there anything else you want to highlight about Big Bad?

The world is full of monsters right now, it seems, but the one at the centre of Big Bad is just a big puppy really. It’s very much a hunted-turned-hunter tale, and as well as being scary it’s also sexy as fuck. Our heroine has been (literally and figuratively) imprisoned by men, but she’s a monster they created – so the patriarchy should be afraid… very afraid of what she’ll do to escape.


Writer: Jodi Gray

Director: Deirdre McLaughlin

Producer: Sarah Morris

Cast: Arabella Gibbins 

Big Bad plays as part of VAULT Festival 2018 from 14 – 18 March 2018. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.