The VAULTS Festival is back!

It’s the VAULT Festival time of year again, and 2020 promises to be bigger and better than ever. The Reviews Hub’s Richard Maguire talked to Bec Martin-Williams, the new Head of Performance and Theatre, to find out what we can expect to discover in the VAULTS’ eight-week run.

The first change from last year is that the Festival will now run 6 days a week, one more than last year. Doors will open on the Tuesdays rather than the Wednesdays making room for many more shows, and giving some shows an extra day’s performance. Bec confirms that there will be around 57O shows this year ranging from theatre, cabaret, comedy and performance, ensuring that this year’s VAULTS will be the biggest so far.

Another change is that there is no flagship show this year, running through the entirety of the eight weeks. Last year the immersive Counting Sheep, restaging the Kiev revolution, was on each night while in 2018 the sexy circus Becoming Shades took centre place. And who can forget The Great Gatsby, which was first performed in 2017 at the VAULTS, and is still going strong in its new home, Immersive LDN in Mayfair. Asked why there was no flagship show this year, Bec explained that there had been no real applications for the slot.

But this is not bad news as it has allowed the VAULTS team to repurpose the Forge, where the flagships took place. Now The Forge has been split into two, with one side a new theatre space with the audience seated in a semi circle around the stage, and the other, a new bar and cabaret space. The Festival also has another new space for its 2020 iteration, the quirky bar Hello Darling, just round the corner on Waterloo Road. But all the other usual venues are back, including the hard-to-find Network Theatre, the atmospheric Cavern, and the even the streets of Waterloo itself.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the VAULTS this year will be its diversity, and there will be more shows than ever from BAME, LGBTQIA+ and working-class voices. Bec did lots of outreach work contacting minority theatre companies and performers encouraging them to apply for the Festival. This strategy led to a huge increase of applications from marginalised groups. In the 2020 VAULTS 35% of shows will come from LGBTQ+ artists, and 25% from BAME artists. Also a whopping 64% will be female-led!

Bec also had some recommendations of shows to see. Her first choice was 39 Degrees, a play about climate change by theatre company RedBellyBlack. As Bec is Australian, the subject of global warming is, obviously, an urgent and frightening one. She also suggests another ecological play, In My Lungs The Ocean Swells, a coming-of-age story set on the Cornish coast and performed by the company No More Superheroes. Another tip is Heroes, a play set in Brixton on the day of David Bowie’s death, by Lilac Yosiphon and Isabel Dixon.

But this year’s VAULTS Festival underneath Waterloo station is so varied that there’s bound to be something for everyone. London’s biggest, bravest Festival is back!

The VAULTS Festival starts on 28 January to 22 March 2020

In My Lungs The Ocean Swells runs from 4 to 9 February

Heroes runs from 18 to 20 February

39 Degrees runs from 10 to 15 March

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. 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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