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Lyn Gardner's VAULT Festival 2023 Picks: Weeks 2 & 3

Lyn Gardner's VAULT Festival 2023 Picks: Weeks 2 & 3

Lyn Gardner's VAULT Festival 2023 Picks: Weeks 2 & 3 cover photo on Stagedoor
What's caught the attention of our resident critic in the VAULT Festival's second and third weeks?

The first week of VAULT Festival 2023 is well underway, with both artists and audiences giving it their all. Two years without the festival has more than proved its value and crucial place in London theatre and the wider ecology in terms of supporting those near the beginning of their careers.

So, what should you look forward to over the next couple of weeks? Part of the pleasure of VAULT Festival is simply taking a chance and discovering something unexpected and thrilling. But if you are looking for some tips take a look below for some picks covering week two (Tue 31 Jan to Sun 5 Feb) and week three (Tue 7 Feb to Sun 12 Feb).

I wouldn’t want to miss Thirsty (Tue 31 Jan - Sun 5 Feb), which is written by Stephanie Martin, whose Juniper and Jules was terrific at 2019's festival and got a well deserved Soho Theatre run. This new work is about a woman emerging from her first queer relationship breakup. Everyone else seems to think they know what Sara wants, but does Sara?

In a festival where both the work and the artists are often unfamiliar it’s good to look for other endorsements, and week two show The Ballerina comes with the accolade of having been shortlisted for the Theatre503 Playwriting Award, which has produced some crackers. Anne-Sophie Marie’s play considers democracy and dissects the effects of Western policies on an unnamed African state.

From Anne-Sophie Marie’s The Ballerina.

Also in week two, Valerie Solanas’ infamous SCUM manifesto gets a reimagining in A Society. So too does Virginia Woolf, in a piece that combines different texts with satirical effect to consider what the world would look like without the patriarchy and if we all had a room of our own. I also like the sound of Sad-Vents, Eleanor Hill’s one-woman show about trauma, mental health and social media. The audience is encouraged to keep their phones on throughout. But with what consequences? Writer/performer Eleanor Hill writes a sharply funny, knowing press release and fingers crossed it translates to a good show. Walking Cats, Zhaolin Zhou’s autobiographical performance exploring homesickness and migrant identity using live feed, object theatre, paper collages and soundscape, also sounds good.

Looking for something completely different between the 31st January and 5th February? Then check out Mythos: Ragnarok, in which pro-wrestling meets Norse mythology with combustible results. Or for something gentler, how about Love In, a one-on-one performance in which participants take away their own love letter. Sounds super lovely.

Heading into week three (Tue 7 Feb - Sun 12 Feb) you should head straight to Edinburgh hit Swarm. Liv Ello’s one woman show combines anger and absurdity to impressive effect. Also look out for Borders ألسياج הגדר, inspired by a real encounter between the Israeli writer and a Lebanese man on Grindr. Is intimacy possible? Palestinian artist Riham Isaac also considers the nature of love in Another Lover’s Discourse ليه خلتني احبك, a solo show in which she interviews friends and family to inquire what love really means.

From Red Room Productions' This Is The Land.

Dread Falls Theatre’s Patient 4620 has been pleasing theatre and horror fans alike at festivals. It’s a 30-minute immersive experience with an entry of one person at a time, venturing into the mind of an artist who has mysteriously gone missing. Running Sat 11 Feb & Sun 12 Feb (and again Sat 18 Feb - Sun 19 Feb) is This Is The Land, Red Room’s meditative production using film, vocalisation and movement to raise spectres of the past and ponder our future in a climate emergency.

Another couple of shows with short runs that look interesting are Sonny Howes’s one-man show, The Benefits of Disabled Sex (Fri 10 Feb - Sun 12 Feb), about losing your legs and virginity, and the Untapped Award short-listed show Hexenhammer (Fri 10 Feb & Sat 11 Feb only) presented by Secretariat. It sounds intriguing, examining men’s propensity to kill women through a 15th century guide to witch-hunting. Written, of course, by men.

One of the reasons I like the VAULT Festival is that the diversity of Bec Martin’s programming ensures you get plenty of glimpses into other cultures and other lives. That’s the case with Molka, a debut collaboration between Maja Laskowska and Taeyun Kim, exploring the impact of spy cameras on the daily lives of women in South Korea where even a trip to the toilet can be a violation of privacy.

Cover image from Riham Isaac's Another Lover’s Discourse ليه خلتني احبك.

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Lyn Gardner

New tips and reviews every week. If you're looking for innovative theatre, you've come to the right place.
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