INTERVIEW: Immersive Theatre and Sexual Politics at the VAULT Festival 2019

There are plenty of shows to see at this year’s VAULT Festival, happening right now in the arches down under Waterloo station, but for the more adventurous the festival also offers a whole host of immersive experiences. Greyscale lets audiences decide whether or not they have witnessed an assault, and the Reviews Hub’s Richard Maguire met one of its creators, Leila Sykes.

So what is the show about?

Leila doesn’t want to give too much away, but she does reveal that only 10 audience members are present at each show and that they will hear two monologues, one from each of the main protagonists. It’s likely that the audience will meet its first actor outside in the smoking area, so she suggests that people wrap up warmly.

Greyscale is influenced by the #MeToo campaign, particularly the case of Aziz Ansari, an American comedian. In January 2018 a woman with the pseudonym of Grace accused Ansari of sexual assault. Ansari has maintained that what happened on their date was fun and consensual. Some people thought that the #MeToo campaign was overreaching while others thought the incident plainly showed a world of misogyny. Like its title suggests, Greyscale investigates this grey area, this contested space.

Written by Madeline Gould and Joel Samuels. Greyscale follows a man and woman on their first date around Waterloo Station. The audience follow them too, stopping off in a pub and even in a ‘structure’ that the producers have built specifically for the show. Fascinatingly, Gould and Samuels were not allowed to confer when they wrote the piece, and so the audience will hear two very different accounts of the same incident. Leila hopes that the audience will ask the actors questions in order that the truth, if there is any, can be discovered.

Leila is pleased to be back at the VAULT Festival, after her show, with writer Madeline, did so well last year. Think of England was the true tale of two women who would travel around air raid shelters in the Second World War offering soldiers companionship for the night. As the cavernous space under Waterloo station was once an air raid shelter itself, Think of England was right at home in last year’s festival.

The VAULT Festival is, Leila says “a hotbed of amazing, innovative, and emerging artists”. She is especially looking forward to seeing Ladykiller, a new play by her friend and colleague Madeline, which plays towards the end of February. However, Leila may be too busy to see many shows as Greyscale plays five times each evening. With only a handful of places available for each performance, it may be wise to get in early.

Greyscale runs until 17 March 2019 |The Vault Festival continues until 17 March 2019
Richard Maguire | Image: Ali Wright

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The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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