So, here we are in the final week of this year’s festival, which artists and audiences fervently hope won’t be the final week of the VAULT Festival ever. That’s because the festival has to move from the spaces below Waterloo Station it has inhabited every year since 2012 and is on the hunt for a new place to host the festival.
That will be tricky but not impossible, so all power to a festival that has proved itself an essential part of the ecology for early-career artists and helped so many on their way. Without the VAULT Festival as a launchpad, many will find themselves overlooked, and talent will not be spotted. That would make all of us—the industry and audiences—poorer.
So, let’s try and send the 2023 VAULT Festival out on a high. It’s such a great night out for audiences, and there is plenty that looks enticing for Week Eight, which runs from Tuesday 14 through Sunday 19 March. How about checking out the brand new all-womxn and queer-led company By the Balls, whose Goodbye '89 turns back the clock to celebrate the activists of the 1980s? There’s more female-led work too from migrant-led group, Vandens Karta Ensemble, who in The Cathedral employ clowning, hymns and karaoke to consider the female experience through the prism of sex and religion.
From Ugly Bucket’s Good Grief.
Not suitable for vegans may not be a selling point with a VAULT audience, but I like the dry humour of Omelettemachine, a solo show from Tommaso Giacomin in the buffoon style that uses horror and clowning to channel both Shakespeare and Heiner Muller to tell of a latter-day Hamlet, butcher Mike, who is haunted by his dad while serving his customers choice cuts. There is buffoonery aplenty too in Ugly Bucket’s Good Grief, an award-winning show created for the memorial of a dying friend. Black humour is very much in evidence in this highly stylised piece, which often comes across as the love child of Alfred Jarry and Coco the Clown with added stabbing and electrocution.
If that’s not enough death for you, try YOU ARE GOING TO DIE, a show performed entirely naked, which, as the all-caps title suggests, plans to make you concentrate on your own imminent demise. It’s the brainchild of Adam Scott-Rowley, who had a hit with This Is Not Culturally Significant. Bag of Beard’s The Messiah Complex is set in a future world where faith is forbidden. You are barred from believing anything that can’t be proven. It’s an interesting concept, and one that I hope this psychological thriller pulls off.
Just Be Normal features real-life sisters Emma and Sophie Jackson trying to make sense of a world that doesn’t understand Emma because of her autism. But is her own family any better equipped to cope? There is plenty more of interest, not least because it is always the case with the VAULT Festival that the show nobody clocks in advance turns out to be a big sleeper hit. So go along, have a great night, and support the festival and the artists. You won’t regret it.
Cover image from Tommaso Giacomin's Omelettemachine.