Review: A Year From Now, VAULT Festival

“I see I’m starting to get old now”

If I had star ratings, RedBellyBlack would gain an extra one automatically for featuring the theme tune to 80s kids TV programme Round The Twist in their show A Year From Now. I would then probably take it away again because they’re all too young to have watched it when it was on and I’m bitter like that. Fortunately, A Year From Now has much more to it than the cultural appropriation of my childhood so we’re good.

Playing at the VAULT Festival after a run at the Tristan Bates last year, the show is built on a set of responses to the provocation ‘where do you see yourself a year from now?’. Using the techniques of verbatim theatre, a company of 5 interpret the answers to that question from 14 different people from all walks of life, with a multidisciplinary approach. With a keen eye for the visual, Vicki Baron’s direction mixes in movement with the miming, laughter with the lip-syncing, constantly keeping us on our toes.  Continue reading “Review: A Year From Now, VAULT Festival”

Preview: VAULT 2017

Established now as one of the major arts festivals in London, the VAULT Festival returns from 25th January to 5th March 2017 at its original home beneath Waterloo Station and, for the first time, at satellite venues Network Theatre (just to the side of Waterloo) and Morley College (a little further away past Lambeth North). As ever, the programme features an exciting selection of shows exploring many themes via many more mediums. Full information and tickets are available now via

I’m still working out exactly what and how much I am going to see but I have got a few selections of the things that have definitely caught my eye.  Continue reading “Preview: VAULT 2017”

Review: Das Spiel: Are You Part Of The Game?, VAULT Festival

“Spiel, spiel, spiel”

With The X-Files returning to our TV screens, there’s never been a better time to want to believe but dear readers, I’m a bit of a sceptic. When it comes to the world of magic and mentalism, something dourly pragmatic wins out and so even when I was offered tickets to Darren Brown’s latest show I turned them down – it’s all a fix I protested. But let it not be said that I’m entirely closed-minded and so when the info for Das Spiel: Are You Part Of The Game? crossed my path, I opted to take the plunge. It fit neatly into my evenings schedule at the Vault festival and at just an hour, it was a risk I was willing to take.

And I’m glad I did as it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Philipp Oberlohr’s mind reading show aims ‘at the crossover between magic and theatre’ but works essentially as a piece of entertainment down to the undeniable and undimmed charm of the man himself. He plays the role of the disingenuous foreigner perfectly, disarming doubters and deniers with a bashful smile here and a quip about linguistic frailties there, and thus he sets the scene wonderfully for The Game. Continue reading “Review: Das Spiel: Are You Part Of The Game?, VAULT Festival”

Review: Don’t Waste Your Bullets On The Dead, VAULT Festival

“We need stability, not creative parenting”

If there’s one thing theatre loves, it is plays about theatre itself. You can find the likes of Red Velvet and Nell Gwynn in the West End right now but in the more vibrant land of the VAULT Festival, Freddie Machin is presenting his own contemporary take on the issue in Don’t Waste Your Bullets On The Dead. Feisty and fresh, it feels like ideal festival fare, bulging at the seams with exuberant imagination.

Theatre director Ellen Billington has been struggling to find work and her personal life is suffering too with lovemaking with her partner strictly regimented to ovulation cycles. When a chance encounter with an old colleague and a playwriting competition results in a swift commission and temporary escape to a backwater Massachusetts town, she thinks all she needs to do is let inspiration do its work but life, and art, are rarely that simple. Continue reading “Review: Don’t Waste Your Bullets On The Dead, VAULT Festival”

Review: BPolar, VAULT Festival

“This is no way to treat a king”

A fascinating one this, an adaptation of Gogol’s Diary of A Madman by the Israeli “Ayit” Ensemble (made up of actors from and around the Negev and Beer Sheva) which is performed wordlessly, employing instead a range of movement techniques, live video art and projections, a pulsing contemporary soundtrack and theatrical trickery to produce a dizzying non-stop hour of theatre.

BPolar follows the life of a minor civil servant, from his troubled upbringing with a violent father to a misguided obsession with his manager’s daughter, to a descent into the turmoil of the bipolar disorder that haunts him. And Yoav Michaeli’s production proves a canny way of depicting mental illness by creating an immersive experience that is near-overwhelming in its scope. Continue reading “Review: BPolar, VAULT Festival”

Review: PLAY, VAULT Festival

“I don’t even know what a colossus of the creative industries is”

 PLAY is a new writing initiative that aims to inspire collaborative working by bringing together writers and directors and giving them two weeks to come up with a short play. And here at the VAULT Festival, there’s two sets of four plays, or PLAYs, bringing together a rather exciting set of creatives to produce some spankingly fresh theatre. The second set takes place mid-February but I’d urge you to book for this one now (you’ve got until Sunday) as I reckon it’s the best tenner you can spend this week, with some seriously impressive work going on here.

Play 9, written by Chloe Todd Fordham and directed by Polina Kalinina, felt like a bit of a riff on Shallow Grave, three university pals skirting around an uncomfortable truth about their (unseen) flatmate. Starting off with a well-choreographed sequence of fighting over a remote, Fordham’s writing quickly slipped into its structure of three differing accounts of what happened, slightly complementary, slightly contradictory, full of detail fleshing out the complex relationships herein, slowly but surely moving the place of real revelation. A couple of right-up-to-the-minute references perhaps overplayed their hand but I did mostly enjoy the shifty evasion of this guilty trio.  Continue reading “Review: PLAY, VAULT Festival”

Review: Gentle Tim, VAULT Festival

“I wanted to be with the animals”

There’s plenty of men looking for bears under the railway arches of Southwark for those of that particular persuasion but in Gentle Tim, it’s most definitely the more ursine types in play. Over The Limit’s inaugural London production, directed by Sinead O’Callaghan, takes its inspiration from the life of Timothy Treadwell, immortalised in Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man but given a new treatment here by Joseph Cullen, who also plays Tim himself.

Treadwell was an American environmentalist, best known for spending 13 consecutive summers in Alaska with nothing but a video camera and the population of grizzly bears there for company. Cullen asks the question whether he was a genuinely well-intentioned documentary-maker or a fantasist suffering delusions of grandeur in the isolated Alaskan wilderness. Blending physical theatre, a score of cinematic scale and dramatic monologue, Gentle Tim looks anew at this fascinating figure. Continue reading “Review: Gentle Tim, VAULT Festival”

2016 Vault Festival – tickets now on sale

(c) Will Hazell

Tickets are now on sale for the 2016 Vault Festival which is bringing together over 100 productions from across the widest possible spectrum of the arts. Running from 27th January until 6th March, there’s six weeks of programming from family-friendly work to late-night parties, with comedy, cabaret, theatre and much more inbetween. Continue reading “2016 Vault Festival – tickets now on sale”

Preview: Elegy at the VAULT Festival and Brighton’s Pink Fringe

“Some stories are more powerful than others”

I’m not normally one for doing preview pieces but for this show, I’m making the exception. Douglas Rintoul’s Elegy was one of the best shows I saw in 2012, making my top 25 for the year and inspiring a rather rapturous review. So I was glad to hear that a) it has had a successful time of it since then, winning an RNT Foundation Playwright Award and touring internationally (indeed the show is currently enjoying a critically acclaimed Spanish language run in Madrid) and b) it is returning to the UK for dates here in London and in Brighton.

This one-man-show is brilliant but brutal, a searing insight into the LGBT refugee experience as a gay Iraqi man is forced on the run when the ‘liberation’ of the post-Saddam regime takes a decidedly more conservative turn, It’s the type of subject that one sadly imagines will never not be resonant somewhere somehow and with the rise of Islamic State in the Middle East, certainly now more than ever. Adam Best will be taking on the unnamed role and Rintoul directs in what will be one of the more haunting productions you’ll see all year long. Continue reading “Preview: Elegy at the VAULT Festival and Brighton’s Pink Fringe”

Review: Symphony, The Vaults

“I do enjoy a skimpy short”

Originally commissioned in 2012 when it played festivals like Latitude, nabokov’s Symphony is a great fit for the ethos of the Vault Festival taking place underneath Waterloo and this sparky revival proves to be one of the highlights of the programme so far. Three short plays by three of the UK’s most exciting playwrights which mix together spoken word and live music, the show treads a blurred line between theatre and gig and pulses with an exciting spirit.

The way that the three writers utilise Ed Gaughan’s music in their stories is quite different but always interesting. Jonesy by Tom Wells is a riff on sporting underdog movies, with an asthmatic student determined to prove himself in his GCSE PC class but ending up in the netball team when rugby turns out to be too rough. Iddon Jones makes a lovable lead and Wells’ quirky sense of humour shines through, not least when Jonesy’s personal theme song finally plays. Continue reading “Review: Symphony, The Vaults”