The VAULT Festival returns to London’s Waterloo next week. Now in its seventh year, it is the capital’s biggest and most exciting arts and entertainment festival. Over eight weeks, the cavernous spaces under Waterloo station will be home to theatre, comedy and cabaret. This year over 400 shows will be performed. It’s a huge undertaking but Head of Programming Becky Brown had a few minutes to spare to talk to The Reviews Hub’s Richard Maguire.
Are you ready?
“Yes, we are ready, always” Becky confirms. This year’s festival is the biggest in its history, and Becky thinks that perhaps by the end of the eight weeks almost 450 shows will have been produced, including fully immersive experiences, cabaret and stand-up comedy. The space underneath Waterloo station is home to various makeshift theatres hidden in damp arches and atmospheric cellars. They have evocative names such as The Cage, The Cavern and The Pit. Outside The VAULT are caravans and shipping containers that hold intimate shows for just a handful of audience members. But with the sheer number of productions being shown this year the festival has grabbed a few other venues in the area.
“For the first time we will be working with the Horse and Stable pub which is just next to Lambeth North Station” says Becky, who then goes on to explain that this new venue will be used for the last three weeks of the festival for a strand of shows in support of the charity Child.org. The stage in the pub will be renamed the Team Mum Stage, and a portion of the profits from these shows will be given to Child.org, which supports pregnancy services in Kenya.
“We will also be working with the Travelling Through bookshop on Lower Marsh”, Becky continues. Last year the bookshop was home to one performance an evening, but because performers and audience members enjoyed it so much last year, the venue will now hold three performances an evening, usually based around storytelling and comedy.
And for those who like getting lost, Becky is pleased to announce that the Network Theatre returns as one of the VAULT’s venues. It’s a community theatre hidden deep in the arches under Waterloo station accessed through metal gates and noisy tunnels.
Becky is particularly looking forward to another new feature of the Festival called the Twilight Programme which is series of late-night slots devoted to comedy and burlesque, shows that are the perfect complement to a drink or two. Returning every Saturday night are the Lates: full-on club nights with a theme. From drag kings to silent discos, there really is a night for everyone.
Becky is proud to say that VAULT Festival 2019 will be the most diverse so far with plenty of plays about people of colour and many, too, about LGBTQ+ experiences. As the VAULT Festival is a curated festival – indeed, Becky says the VAULT Festival is the biggest curated festival in the UK, if not the world! – the quality of the shows is always impressive. So hopefully none of those dodgy shows that sometimes crop up at other fringe festivals!
Finally, we asked Becky what she was especially excited about seeing, if she has the time of course. Counting Sheep is the first show on Becky’s list; It’s headlining the VAULT Festival this year, and is an immersive show charting the 2104 Kiev uprising in Ukraine. You can choose to be an observer or a protester in a production that promises singing, dancing and plain old marching. The second show that Becky mentions is Bobby and Amy, a black comedy about the 90s’ foot-and-mouth disease by award-winning playwright Emily Jenkins. Becky’s final choice is another immersive show, The Church of the Sturdy Virgin. Despite its odd name, it’s a dark interactive experience on the subject of death – even our own. And funeral attire is advised.
It promises to be an incredible eight weeks: always unpredictable and always fun, VAULT Festival 2019 is the place to be this winter!
The VAULT Festival runs from 23 January to 17 March. Find everything you need to know about what’s on and how to get tickets over at https://vaultfestival.com/
Richard Maguire | Image: Contributed