The VAULT Festival is one of the most diverse festivals in the country, giving voices to minorities. The programming for LGBTQ+ shows is impressive, and in the first week alone there were at least four shows that discussed LGBTQ+ experiences. As the festival moves into its second week, The Reviews Hub’s Richard Maguire talked to two queer performers, Will Jackson and Alekxandr about their upcoming shows, and the music that inspired them.
Yours Sincerely opens on Wednesday and is a one-man show by 23-year-old Will Jackson. In 2017, he accidentally stole 300 second-class stamps from a post office. He didn’t give them back, but instead decided to use them to post handwritten letters, very unusual for a millennial who has relied on emails and texts for most of his life.
He wrote and confessed love to his crushes, composed shout-outs to his exes, and in one letter wrote to John Lewis offering new ideas for their Christmas commercial. Some of his recipients wrote back; others, like John Lewis, maintained dignified silences. Yours Sincerely, part fact, part fiction, is the story of these letters.
Will has also prepared a killer playlist for the show, and he lip-synchs to some of the tracks. There’s Kylie, of course, and she’s joined by The Scissor Sisters, and by the queens of melodrama Whitney and Céline. And there’s a very special version of Cheryl Cole’s Fight For Your Love, remixed by the show’s composer Tom Rackham, which needs to be heard to be believed!
But Will is sure to point out that underneath the camp sparkle are two important issues that affect his generation. Firstly, he believes that with such a reliance on technological communication, and the necessity to limit the number of letters in social media posts, millennials have lost the “long read”. Will says he found it easier to discuss complex issues in an old-fashioned letter than in a text, or a tweet.
Secondly, by making himself the hero of his own show, Will demonstrates that gay men can have roles in the theatre other than that of a tragic character who dies or is the gay best friend, a dab-hand at make-overs. Will has a point and the only gay plays that seem to cross over to the mainstream are the ones that have death as their focus, for instance, The Inheritance and Angels in America. For Will, writing Yours Sincerely became a political act.
Alekxandr is also the hero of his show, Little King, which is, he confesses, more like a gig than a theatrical show, although he is an actor as well as a singer. “There’ll be a theatrical edge, for sure” he affirms, explaining that he’s working with a movement director. While he won’t be telling a single story through his music, the songs will highlight the different stages of heartbreak, each song having its own story. He calls the night a queer romance.
Influenced by the dreamy musical landscapes of Björk, Lana Del Ray and Perfume Genius, Alekxandr will be performing his songs with the help of his bandmate Liam Mertens. Hopefully, he will sing his newest track Tell Jackson, a sorrowful epic to an ex-lover, and If, a bitter electronic song about the emotional dangers of sex: “If we do this, it doesn’t change anything.”
After a successive gig last year at the Hackney Showrooms, Alekxandr has been working on his new EP, which should come out next month, and directing the songs’ videos, a few of which can be seen on YouTube. But without a label to support him, it’s hard work getting his songs out to the public. His shows at the VAULT Festival should bring him new audiences.
Little King is scheduled towards the end of the evening, but Alekxandr is happy to have the late slot: “sexy and exciting”, he says, sensing his style fits the 10:30pm time. He sees the VAULT Festival as a “strange theatrical underworld” and can’t wait to get down there for his shows. It’s certain that his haunting voice will sound perfect echoing through the depths under Waterloo Station.
Two very different shows with music at their hearts, Yours Sincerely and Little King are definitely worth checking out this week at the VAULT Festival. Some more brave programming by the VAULT team!
Yours Sincerely runs until 3 February 2019 | Little King runs until 1 February 2019 | VAULT Festival continues to March 17 2019
Richard Maguire | Image: Elafris Photography