It’s back and bolder than ever. Theatre editor Daniel Perks checks out the VAULT Festival 2018 programme and picks his top shows, the ones not to be missed:
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.
But what exactly is going on at the VAULT Festival this year? With the new addition of a full comedy programme to its schedule, the festival is bigger than ever – a combination of new writing, BAME and LGBTQ+ specific shows, cabaret, magic and circus. And that’s not even thinking about the array of late nights, parties, film clubs and street food stalls on offer. This is a pimped-up reincarnation, a whole new ballgame after the successes of previous years.
Bigger festival means enhanced coverage
This year, Miro are expanding our coverage to keep up with the bolder, fresher feeling of the VAULT Festival 2018. Before, during and after the festival’s eight week run (24 January – 18 March), we will provide reviews, interviews, spotlights and commentary across the all the genres. So check out our website, with a page dedicated to exclusive coverage of the VAULT Festival, with regular updates from performing theatre companies, stand-up comedians and cabaret acts.
There’s a huge number of different performance styles that are presenting work throughout the eight weeks of the VAULT Festival, so there’s sure to be something for everyone. I toyed with going through the different genres – theatre, comedy, cabaret – and picking out my highlights. But instead, I’ve decided on weekly rundown, with my top shows that are certain to keep you coming back to the cavernous space underneath Waterloo station time and time again.
In my last article of the best shows to kick off 2018, I selected Split, To The End Of The World! and Becoming Shades as three shows not to miss – a mix of comedy, cabaret and circus. Be sure to check these out – I’m guessing you’ve already booked your tickets! But what else is coming up?
There are some seriously strong pieces in this opening week of VAULT Festival. My recommendations are one-person shows, people who made their presence felt during Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017:
Joe Sellman-Leava made his mark in The Vaults with his 2017 performance of Labels, which he is bringing back for one show only. But he is also touring his newest one-man production, Monster – a brutally honest look at gender and masculinity from a young man who struggles to come to terms with the violent tendencies inherent in all of us. If you’re looking for a double bill of angry, one-man work, then pair Sellman-Leava up with David William Bryan, who performs in Trashed. This is a show about what happens when that anger spins out of control because the protagonist is incapable of processing his emotions. Sascha Moore‘s anti-hero Goody sinks deeper and deeper, drinking away his problems and lashing out rather than seeking help.
This week (as every week should be) is all about feminism. But it’s about feminist theatre in three different, equally effective guises, starting with Bicycles and Fish – the debut work by Katie Arnstein. Katie’s story is one of everyday sexism, where girls learn the concept of misogyny before they learn about feminism. But it’s also one of comedy, storytelling and songs, because every story should have a song. 2 Become 1 certainly has enough of those get up and dance numbers, as well as a dollop of girl power from the most influential girl band of the 90s. This is a celebration of friendship, of sisters doing it for themselves and spicing up their lives. From the feel-good factor to an equally heartfelt, but more emotional look at feminism in relationships, The Poetry We Make intertwines gender and sexuality. Director Edwina Strobl guides the two characters through a gender transition, examining what it means to be a woman and what it means to be in love.
If satirical songwriting is your thing (it sure is mine!) then look no further than these two shows in week four. Fresh from an explosive Edinburgh, Isobel Rogers brings Elsa, the Covent Garden coffee shop girl, back to her home town. With entirely original material, Rogers exposes the insecurities in the everyday – regretful decisions from the night before and attempts to escape the rat race all take haven in the shop, perfect for Elsa to eavesdrop and uncover the truth. While Rogers sits, plays beautiful acoustic melodies and delivers harsh realities, the Witt ‘n Camp duo stay on the more outrageous end of the spectrum. No less insightful or cutting, expect talking chickens, OTT criminal divas and a spot of burlesque from this unforgettable duo.
Check out our Miro interview with the Witt ‘n Camp duo here.
My top picks for this week are two more Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 success stories. Glitter Punch does exactly what it says on the tin – it hits you hard with a searing, heartfelt attitude to young love for a teenager who doesn’t typically experience such heightened emotion. This show has had a couple of cast incarnations at the King’s Head Theatre and in Edinburgh, but the powerful performance of Emily Stott is one not to be missed in any theatre festival – the same could be said for Amy Conway. Amy’s performance in Super Awesome World is more reserved, more introspective but no less impactful. She explores the link between mental health problems and video gaming, exposing her audience to a world of 90s Nintendos and Samaritans phonecalls, as we become Amy’s allies in the quest against the forces of depression.
Check out our Miro review for Glitter Punch here.
This week showcases two new pieces of work from performers who enjoyed a very successful Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017. Solo performer Adam Scott-Rowley, whose smash hit This Is Not Culturally Significant was one of the highlights of the 2017 theatre calendar, is back with a devised work and an ensemble cast. Unlike his first work, which hit you in the face from the get-go, People Who Need People promises to be a slow burner with a climax unlike any other – colour me intrigued. Having seen a 15-minute excerpt from Boots at the HerStory 5 festival and knowing the exceptional acting prowess of Tanya Dee from Offside, I am as intrigued to see how the rest of this show plays out. Co-written by Dee’s Offside acting companion, Jessica Butcher, Boots tells the story of infertility and sexual trauma from two women coming to the same journey at different points in life.
Check out our Miro review for This Is Not Culturally Significant here.
This is how all festivals should end, with two powerful, feminist performance artists, both of whom are unafraid to push boundaries and challenge the status quo. Things That Do Not C(o)unt is a body positivity piece, proudly proclaiming that female sexuality can be explored and enjoyed by all women, of all body types. Performed by intersectional feminist theatremaker, Nastazja Somers, I predict a show that is bold, brash and beautifully constructed. In the much same way, I can exclaim the same of A Girl And A Gun, Louise Orwin‘s powerful show where the power is in her hands. After a successful Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017, this one-woman show makes the man feel on edge, as he is dropped into scenarios without any awareness of his role or his purpose. What an ending to a boundary-pushing festival programme!