What to see at VAULT Festival 2019

Will Rathbone

We speak to lead producer Becky Brown about the latest incarnation of London’s premier Fringe Festival.

London’s VAULT Festival started in 2012 at the Old Vic tunnels, playing to around 7,500 audience members over its typical late-January to early-March timeframe. Last year 70,000 people took a trip to Waterloo Vaults, and the surrounding area, to catch one of the 350 events programmed over 40 nights. The evolution of the festival has been huge and Becky Brown, Head of Producing and Programme Management, has an idea as to why. “The thing that makes us incredibly unique is that we are a curated festival. We sit down and hand-pick each of the applications, and we believe in every show that comes in. There’s also the breadth of what we programme - we’re supporting immersive work in a way that is unique and exciting, and our Late Night Party strand is something that I don’t think other festivals do.”
So, unlike the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe Festivals, the companies and performers at VAULT are part of a cohesive process which lends each year a different flavour from the last. What can visitors expect from VAULT 2019? “There’s quite a lot of work looking at the theme of death, the #MeToo movement and empowerment. It’s our most diverse programme ever - we have a lot of shows from, or about, people with disabilities, our largest ever female-led programme and also our largest ever number of LGBTQAI+ writers and performers. So we’re talking themes of women, power and death - at least that’s what’s popping into my head at the moment!”
With the festival organisers hand-picking each entry, are these themes a conscious decision or something that emerges organically as the line-up starts to take shape? “It’s all very open. We run an open application process where a programming panel led by the heads of the different strands sit down and look through every single application. This year we had close to 1500! The themes come from the artists themselves, because they’re representing the zeitgeist and what people in art want to talk about. Most of the theatre and comedy is new writing, so it’s very much a representation of what is happening in the industry at the moment.”

Image: Counting Sheep via
London Calling’s Top 3 VAULT Festival shows:
Counting Sheep
The de-facto ‘headliner’ of this year’s festival sees the directors of Belarus Free Theatre present a ‘Guerilla Folk Opera’ based on real-life stories from the 2014 Kiev uprising.
Audiences are invited into a confessional, AA-style, performance space in a show that sets out the social contexts behind substance addiction.
Queens of Sheba
Nouveau Riche’s passionate rallying cry against ‘misogynoir’ - where sexism meets racism - inspired by the DSTRKT nightclub incident of 2015.

Catch VAULT Festival 2019 from January 23 to March 17 in venues across Waterloo.

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