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 Oli Forsyth, bringing Cornermen 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 Cornermen, which plays VAULT Festival from 7 – 8 March 2018. I caught up with writer and performer Oli Forsyth:

Describe Cornermen in three words.

Acclaimed boxing drama.

Is this your first VAULT Festival performance experience?

No, 3rd time in a row! Currently we’re in the middle of our first national tour, so in the few hours you get each day when moving between venues I’m feeling pretty excited to bring it home.

Cornermen was the first ones we ever brought in 2015, where it was published by Nick Hern Books as part of the anthology. The following year we debuted Kings, which won the Show of the Week Award and went on to a full length run at New Diorama Theatre. This year we’re back with the new version of Cornermen and, as a nice little extra, the show has now been published as an individual volume.

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

Conquest for sure sounds very interesting, also Revelations and Wrecked as well as the Mulligan Collective shows. I’m also really keen to see the new writer shows. The trouble is that we’re touring directly over the festival so days in London when we can see shows are few and far between!

Who or what are your inspirations?

Just good stuff. I know that sounds simple but work that’s good, original and well thought through always inspires you to do the same. That’s why festivals like VAULT are so good for keeping you artistically fresh; you can go from hard hitting dramas at 18:00 to one-person puppet shows at 20:00 and cabaret at 22:00. If that doesn’t get you going then you’re doing something wrong.

What are the future plans for Cornermen?

I’m currently writing the next show for Smoke & Oakum in the mornings, before we get into venues and have plans for another before the end of the year. The Cornermen tour gets taken over by Red Ladder after this and goes onto their amazing Strategic Touring circuit, which will be great. In terms of post festival dreams, a holiday might be nice.

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

I think Oslo really left a lasting impression. It’s the kind of theatre I’d love to make, it was broad yet detailed, dramatic but informative. I think it’s quite an achievement to explain a portion of the Middle East peace process, the complexities of multiple parties, keep everyone gripped and manage to get some solid laughs out of it. I really loved how it didn’t shy away from complexity, it didn’t reduce it too much to suit an audience, it challenged you to keep up.

Is there anything else you want to highlight about Cornermen?

I’m not sure. I’m always slightly aware that, as companies go, we don’t really have a niche as such. What we do, however, is make quality new writing that covers a very wide range of topics, from boxing to rave culture, homelessness to child prodigies, and we produce this work very regularly.

In four years we’ve produced six shows, seen four of them published and are now moving into national touring as well. None of that really counts as a highlight; it’s just what we do. I suppose Cornermen marks a milestone of sorts for Smoke & Oakum as it’s the first time we’ve looked backwards and taken a show that we’d finished, then updated and changed it, partnered it with some excellent people and brought it back to life. I’m more of a moving forward person so it’s certainly been an experience.


Writer: Oli Forsyth

Producer: Smoke & Oakum Theatre, co-produced with Red Ladder and New Diorama Theatre

Design: Joshua Lucas (lighting & sound)

Cast: James Barbour; Oli Forsyth; George Jovanovic; Jesse Rutherford

Cornermen plays as part of VAULT Festival 2018 from 7 – 8 March 2018. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.