Review: Freedom Hi 自由閪, VAULT Festival

Tapping into the Hong Kong resistance movement, Freedom Hi 自由閪 is a piece of inventive chaos at the VAULT Festival

“Let our rage not be crushed
Let our fears not be ignored
Let our silence be defiant
Let our words soar”

As a compilation of new writing and performance art by UK based Hong Kong and British East Asian artists, Freedom Hi 自由閪 is necessarily a messy and complex thing. Which makes trying to review it in the conventional sense something of a fruitless enterprise (some might say that about reviewing anything at all…!!).

Anchored by a brilliant use of technology – joining the show by Telegram is an additional route in for the audience – and compiled by Kim Pearce for Papergang Theatre, the result is a dizzying montage of dance and drama, poetry and prose, interactivity both in person and onscreen. It aims, and shoots, high and the resulting scattershot fall is thus varied. Continue reading “Review: Freedom Hi 自由閪, VAULT Festival”

Review: The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First, VAULT Festival

Out Of The Forest Theatre nail it once again with The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First at the VAULT Festival

“I did what I could…
‘Did you?'”

I would hardwire Out Of The Forest Theatre to my brain if I could, something about the way in which they think about theatre and the stories that they tell (Call Me Fury; Bury the Hatchet) proving a real shot in the arm and deserving of much bigger renown. But for now, we should rejoice in the smaller spaces in which they’re playing as the intimacy only adds to this special air.

The latest chapter of the history books to receive a breath of their bracingly fresh air is a lesser sung (in this country at least) piece of European history that manifests itself as The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First. Written by Joseph Cullen and Sasha Wilson, their inventive mode of storytelling probes into the mythos of that very storytelling and how history chooses to remember people. Continue reading “Review: The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First, VAULT Festival”

Review: Sugar Coat, VAULT Festival

Sugar Coat is an uncomproming but thrilling mix of theatre and gig at the VAULT Festival

Whether by an accident of fate or intentional programming, the Forge has been something of a revelation for me at the VAULT Festival, housing some of the more weird and wonderful shows I’ve seen there this year. Sugar Coat maintains that trend with an uncomproming but thrilling mix of theatre and gig.

Written by Joel Samuels (A Wake in Progress, which DESTROYED me last year) and Lilly Pollard, the show spares no prisoners in a forthright depiction of eight formative years of a young woman’s life as she experiences much – too much – of what life has to offer as sexual thrills sit next to shattering trauma. Continue reading “Review: Sugar Coat, VAULT Festival”

Review: (Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition], VAULT Festival

(Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition] sees women take on the male musical theatre songbook at the VAULT Festival

“If you strip away the myth from the man…”

There’s no arguing that the musical theatre songbook is skewed in favour of men and with theatre’s enduring love of a revival, that means the opportunities for women to express the fullness of their selves onstage have always been limited (hell, even as I write this a man has been announced to play Mother Superier in the Edinburgh run of Sister Act…). 

This is the world US performers Genevieve Flati and Kelly Rogers are trying to reshape just a little with their show (Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition], making its international debut here at the VAULT Festival. More than just a gender-reversed concert, Flati and Rogers compere the evening with a running commentary of how and why these songs have been chosen, exploring and explaining the boundaries being broken here.  Continue reading “Review: (Wo)men Rule Broadway [West End Edition], VAULT Festival”

Review: V&V, VAULT Festival

From Virginia and Vita, to Mia and Lottie, Misha Pinnington’s swooningly romantic V&V explores how technology has impacted communication in relationships at the VAULT Festival

“I’ve been doing something so odd, so queer”

The business of conducting a love affair has alwas been particularly charged, as senses are heightened in the erotic rush and emotions brought closer to the surface. But in the world of romance and relationships, communication is key. Misha Pinnington’s V&V explores how even with a century of technological advancement, telling someone how you feel can be an absolute minefield.

From the carefully composed letters between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf to the scrolling message screen of the dating app on which Mia and Lottie meet, Pinnington compares and contrasts these love stories, asking what if anything has really changed for matters of the heart – lesbian, straight  or otherwise. And in her smartly directed production for Sprezzatura, it proves a deeply affecting and romantic experience. Continue reading “Review: V&V, VAULT Festival”

Review: SORRY, VAULT Festival

Improv group SORRY team up with Andrew Hunter Murray for a fricking hilarious night at the VAULT Festival

“There isn’t any wrong or right, just blow or strum”

The angels smiled on me when improv supremos SORRY announced another gig to follow their previous sold-out shows at the VAULTs this year. And not only that, their special guest for this one was none other than Andrew Hunter Murray, he of Austentatious and recent Sunday Times-best selling list fame.

I possibly didn’t laugh as hard anywhere else than at their show here last year and this time round was no disappointment either. Their format works extremely well – 15 minutes chat with their guest at the top of the show and then the rest of the time spent riffing on the subjects raised, in some brilliantly off-the-cuff and off-the-wall improv from Liz Kingsman, Alison Thea-Skot, Naomi Petersen, Sophia Broido and Lola-Rose Maxwell. Continue reading “Review: SORRY, VAULT Festival”

Review: Heroine, VAULT Festival

Lizzie Milton’s insightful and amusing deep dive into folklore comes up with the goods in Heroine at the VAULT Festival

“You can be a heroine and still have a way to go yet”

Enrique Iglesias could be one for you, Mariah Carey thinks you are one; and so did David Bowie. Popular culture lacks no paeans for heroes but when it comes to celebrating heroines, the well seems to run a little dry (and no, it’s not just because it is a more difficult rhyme…!) Snatchback and Joyous Gard’s Heroine looks to redress that balance just a little as it delves into folkloric traditions from around the globe to celebrate the unsung.

Written by Lizzie Milton (10) and directed by Asia Osborne (Call Me Fury and The Teind), the show puts its women front and centre as we meet Mother, Maid and Crone who are here to take us on a storytelling odyssey. And as we journey from West African tales to Aztec traditions, from Celtic mysteries to Inuit romance, there’s a funny and frank appraisal of role of women in these stories and what they often have to endure in the name of the patriarchy.

Continue reading “Review: Heroine, VAULT Festival”

Review: LAD, VAULT Festival

Equal parts hilarious and horrific, One Duck’s LAD puts laddishness under the spotlight at the VAULT Festival

Irish theatre company One Duck are certainly keeping busy. They’ve only just closed their run of John O’Donovan’s Flights at the Omnibus and now they’re opening LAD at the VAULT Festival. And across the two shows, it is clear to see the artistic themes driving them at the moment, looking how society has shaped modern masculinity and asking what kind of state it is in.

Writer/performers Alan Mahon and Rhys Dunlop’s LAD is all about Steve (Mahon), a nice enough chap who wants to work in a zoo and who’s prepping an upcoming best man’s speech. But there’s a nagging sense of trouble, he was an accountant but now he’s stacking shelves, and that nagging sense has a nagging voice, personified in toto by Dunlop, suggesting an entirely split self. Continue reading “Review: LAD, VAULT Festival”

Review: Ride, VAULT Festival

With Ride at the VAULT Festival, I remain convinced that Bottle Cap Theatre are the future of new musical theatre

“I take a breath to keep me calm
And then it’s on to Vietnam”

At a moment where the inspiration for big new West End musicals can’t seem to look past the cinema screen, Bottle Cap Theatre are here to remind us of the power and potential of fresh new voices in musical theatre writing. They blew me away at last year’s VAULT Festival with The Limit and returning this year with their new piece Ride, moved me more in 10 minutes than anything on Fifth Avenue or by the banks of the Nile.

This, writers Freya Smith and Jack Williams achieve, by once again finding inspiration from unsung sources. The Limit focused on neglected mathematician Sophie Germain and Ride looks to the first woman to cycle around the world – Annie Londonderry – to muse on the cult of celebrity and self-promotion, and ask what might give someone the drive and determination to get in the saddle and smash the patriarchy so. Continue reading “Review: Ride, VAULT Festival”

Review: She Is A Place Called Home, VAULT Festival

Esohe Uwadiae’s debut play She Is A Place Called Home shines a light on Nigerian culture through the prism of dual nationality at the VAULT Festival

“If you’re second, you know what you’re getting”

They f*ck you up, your mum and dad, and your dad’s second wife, as it turns out. Esohe Uwadiae’s debut play She Is A Place Called Home has its roots deeply entwined in Nigerian culture, as two British Nigerian sisters deal with the news that their father is getting married again, much to the horror of their mother, his first wife. But it also teases out wider ideas around power dynamics in families, religion and culture clashes, and the succour that strong sibling relationships can provide. 

We first meet the unnamed sisters as they rehearse the traditional dance their father wants them to perform at the ceremony and as in the nature of so many families, they can’t stop squabbling. But far from inconsequential matters, there’s something deep-rooted about the pain here. From the coercive control their father exerted over the whole household, to the devastation felt by his first wife now that his new lover is expecting a son, to the notions of (perceived) success that govern so many of their actions. Continue reading “Review: She Is A Place Called Home, VAULT Festival”