The Vault Festival runs from 28 January – 22 March 2020 (no shows on Mondays), and runs across a number of venues this year.

The Vaults (Leake Street, near Waterloo Station) continues as the festival hub, with shows also taking place at The Network Theatre, The Gift Horse (at the Horse and Stables), Vaulty Towers, The Cockatiel (at Hello Darling), and several pop-up and vehicle venues.

The venues based at The Vaults are Pit, Cavern, Cage, Crypt, Crescent, Studio, Forge, Underbar, Time for Change, and Granby Place. These are all step-free accessible, as is the Network Theatre.

Most shows run to an hour-long slot, which gives an exciting opportunity to try a range of theatrical experiences from theatre and cabaret to immersive shows and “Lates”. The Vaults itself is open to meet, drink and socialise throughout the Festival.

Here are my thirty-five picks from across the festival. Check back regularly for reviews and features which will all be tagged vault2020. [POST UPDATED 25 JAN 2020].

Image courtesy Vault Festival
Image courtesy Vault Festival

Week one (28 Jan – 2 Feb)

Productions I will be reviewing

First Time. Studio at The Vaults, 28 Jan – 2 Feb at 6pm. Nathaniel Hall presented by Dibby Theatre and Waterside Arts.

“Fresh from his critically-acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe debut, award-winning HIV+ theatre-maker Nathaniel Hall presents this ‘hilarious’ and ‘heart breaking’ autobiographical solo show about growing up positive in a negative world”.

Week two (3 – 9 Feb)

Productions I will be reviewing

Head of State. Studio at The Vaults, 4 – 6 Feb at 6pm. Produced by Grande Productions.

“Mo is the newly elected Head of State of Nechora – a country so tiny, it’s literally not even on the map. Inspired to get into politics by the two women he admires the most – his beloved Grandnana and pop sensation Ariana Grande – Mo is now determined to host a world changing summit on the climate emergency … he finds himself the trusted therapist of the world’s most powerful leaders and soon realises that the fate of the entire planet rests in his hands…”.

On Arriving. Pit at The Vaults, 4-9 Feb at 6pm. Produced by Searchout Theatre.

On Arriving is a new one-woman play [by Ivan Faute, performed by Sophia Eleni], exploring a young refugee’s fight for survival, as her country falls apart before her eyes … presented through a non-linear structure – reflecting the way we recall memories – this brave, poetic play looks at the human moments of one person’s choice to leave a place they have known their entire life, to set off for something unknown”.

Productions I will be featuring

Tuna. Studio at The Vaults, 7-9 Feb, 6pm. Produced by Airlock.

“A new darkly comic look at the unsexy side of girls growing up around guns; the knottiness of social mobility, and a meatier side of female criminality. It’s a little less beautiful-bond-girl and a little more British school-girl. Semi-autobiographical and stored in brine”.

What The Dolls Saw. Pit at The Vaults, 5-9 Feb, 9pm. Produced by House of Macabre.

“Three sisters travel home for the funeral of their father, who happens to be the world’s greatest Dollmaker. With their mother on the edge of sanity, and an unsolved case haunting the family, the sisters must unearth dark secrets to find out: what did the dolls see? A delight for fans of true crime with a plot that unravels like a mystery podcast. This a play about sisterhood, and the pressure upon women to fit into the perfect china mould. Not recommended for those with a phobia of dolls… or a fear of feminism”.

Week three (10 – 16 Feb)

Productions I will be reviewing

Love (Watching Madness). Studio at The Vaults, 14-16 Feb, 6pm. Produced by Speakup Theatre.

“A fast paced, poignant and painful celebration of mums, daughters and the strength of a child’s love in the face of tough odds. A heart wrenching and hilarious autobiographical one-woman show about the relentless journey of caring for someone who can’t always show that they care for you”.

Tinted. Studio at The Vaults, 11-16 Feb, 7.20pm. Produced by Scripped Up.

Tinted is a revolutionary disabled response to the #metoo hashtag. Staged as accessibly as possible and written by disabled playwright Amy Bethan Evans (Libby’s Eyes, BBC Access Room, Kudos Fellowship shortlist and producer of Access Platform) Tinted is the debut full-length monologue from Scripped Up, championing D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent writers.”

Productions I will be featuring

Bible John. Forge at The Vaults, 12-16 Feb, 9pm. Produced by These Girls in association with the Pleasance.

Bible John is partly a retelling of one of Scotland’s darkest unsolved crimes, but is more broadly an interrogation into the ethics of true crime as entertainment, and the reasons why women in particular are so hungry for stories that has the victimisation of other women at their heart”.

Sticky Door. Cage at The Vaults, 11-16 Feb, 7.30pm. Produced by Katie Arnstein.

“A storytelling show with songs about sex, stigma and cystitis. Sticky Door is the third part in Katie Arnstein’s It’s a Girl! trilogy, following Bicycles and Fish and Sexy Lamp [both also showing at the Vault Festival, 16 Feb only]”.

Talk Propa. Studio at The Vaults, 11-13 Feb, 6pm. Produced by Shybairn.

“Sick of the endless presentations of northern women as the clown, ‘chav’ or someone that lives such a dire life in the grim darkness that is The North™, that they must escape and move to the wonderful South… TALK PROPA is a truly northern f*ck you to the southern elite”.

Week four (17 – 23 Feb)

Productions I will be reviewing

how we love. Cage at The Vaults, 18-23 Feb, 7.30pm. Produced by Airlock/Annette Brook.

“A new play about different types of love … Gay investigative journalist Babatunde ‘Babs’ Okonkwo has come to visit his lesbian best friend Regina ‘Regi’ Abengowe in Lewisham, south London. With mounting pressures back in Nigeria, where homosexuality is illegal and escalating dangers for their partners, Babs and Regi hatch a plan to get married …”

Madame Ovary. Studio at The Vaults, 18-23 Feb, 7.20pm. Produced by Wildchild Productions.

“A ‘breathtakingly sad and intensely funny’ true-story of Rosa Hesmondhalgh’s ovarian cancer treatment aged 23. The 5 star sell-out hit of Edinburgh Fringe is returning to London. Madame Ovary is a life-affirming show about the importance of love when your world comes crashing down”. Madame Ovary is a Pick of the Pleasance 2019 Award Winner.

Productions I will be featuring

Heroes. Studio at The Vaults, 18-20 Feb, 6pm. Produced by Lilac Yosiphon and Isabel Dixon.

Heroes is an exploration of fallen idols, family secrets and the human price of forgiveness”. A work in progress, set in 1991 and 2016, inspired by the influence of David Bowie.

Jekyll and Hyde. Vehicle Venues (streets around The Vaults and Waterloo), 19 Feb-22 Mar, 7.15pm. Produced by Fire Hazard Games Ltd.

“Jekyll / Hyde is an interactive mobile game that plunges you into a world where your memory can’t be trusted, and neither can those around you. You’ll have 90 minutes to search for hidden clues around the streets of Lambeth: uncover the truth about your actions decide what your future will hold … Jekyll/Hyde blends mobile game technology with narrative storytelling and real-world characters”.

Week five (24 Feb – 1 Mar)

Productions I will be reviewing

Beige. Studio at The Vaults, 25 Feb – 1 Mar, 6pm. Produced by Magna.

“In this half-play, half stand-up gig, Anna Wheatley explores the art of being human in a world obsessed with boxes. You might do a laugh. You might do a cry. You might join hands and stick two fingers up to society”.

Blow: a Deaf Girl’s Fight. Studio at The Vaults, 25 Feb – 1 Mar, 7.20pm. Produced by Tramp.

“When 18 year old deaf girl Hannah wants to join Dennison’s Boxing Gym, she’s shunned by the boxers because of her disability, until trainer Bradley takes her under his wing. Blow follows Hannah’s journey from outcast to championship contender … part play, part immersive, and part musical, Blow asks tough questions of the audience about how d/Disabled people are portrayed on stage and screen, and how society treats them in real life”.

Life and Death of a Journalist. Cage at The Vaults, 25 Feb – 1 Mar, 7.30pm. Produced by Jingan Young, Alex Change and Archie MacLeod.

“Inspired by Hong Kong reporters this play follows Laura, a reporter who returns to London after covering the Hong Kong protests only to be offered a job of a lifetime by editor Vicky. But there’s one catch to this golden opportunity. The newspaper begins to increasingly censor itself to appease its Chinese investor. The play looks at journalism from a female perspective and tackles China’s tightening grip on freedom of speech”.

Dumbledore is So Gay. Network Theatre, 25 Feb – 1 Mar, 6.15pm. Produced by Robert Holtom and Tom Wright.

“It ain’t easy being Jack. He hates French, he got sorted into Hufflepuff on the official online quiz and he’s in love with his best friend Ollie. But dodging bullies, keeping secrets and trying to get the man is too much for Jack to take. So he pulls out his trusty Time Turner and does it all over again. Maybe this time he’ll get into Gryffindor. Dumbledore Is So Gay is a witty, poignant and contemporary coming-of-age drama for the naughties”.

V+15. Cavern at The Vaults, 26 Feb – 1 Mar, 9.20pm. Produced by Nevertheless Theatre Company.

“After years in the shadows, Alina and Vincent can stay silent no longer. But when personal beliefs have political consequences, fighting the good fight is not as straightforward as it seems. Jo Sutherland’s tense political thriller asks what we believe in and what we’d risk to stand up for those beliefs”.

Zoo. Cavern at The Vaults, 25 Feb – 1 Mar, 7.50pm. Produced by Lily Bevan/Anteater.

“A play about ‘climate change’ both in the weather and in the discussion of the female experience, our relationships to the natural world, and perceptions of a life well lived … From Lily Bevan – co-writer of Talking to Strangers w/Sally Phillips (BBC Radio 4) and writer/performer of Pheasant Plucker (Edinburgh sellout 2015) comes this glorious story of two complex, funny, awkward women. A tale of tragedy, courage, flamingoes and the need to escape”.

Productions I will be featuring

Alice. Cavern at The Vaults, 27 Feb – 1 Mar, 6.20pm. Produced by Klein Blue.

“Alice is an arresting solo play [by Emily Renée] about otherness, Azerbaijani-British identity, and the power that comes from creating our own personal myths to define who we are.

Be More Bee. Crescent at The Vaults, 28 Feb & 1 Mar, 22.45pm. Produced by Lightning Bugs.

“Struggling to fit in? Out of step with this crazy new world? Well Bea’s got just the ticket to make you feel at home. It’s the bees! They know what’s *really* the buzz in this country! Come to Bea’s Garden Party and get stuck in – she’ll guide you through the honey-soaked life-hacks of the British Bee”. I reviewed this at the Camden Fringe in 2019.

This Poo Shall Pass. The Gift Horse @ The Horse and Stables, 29 Feb-1 Mar, 7pm. Produced by Molly Martian.

“Molly Martian spends her time writing poems and performing them to audiences around London. She also spends a lot of her time on the toilet. This Poo Shall Pass shows us both of these sides of her. What would otherwise be simply an engaging hour of poetry and comedy is consistently interrupted by a look behind the curtain at an anxiety-induced time Marsh spent in a toilet cubicle, running into a barrage of scatological dilemmas”.

Week six (2 – 8 Mar)

Productions I will be reviewing

Closed Lands. Cage at The Vaults, 3-8 Mar, 6.15pm. Produced by Legal Aliens Theatre.

“A unique fusion of poetry, satire, reportage, multimedia and traveller’s diary, Closed Lands traces the history of modern walls – real and metaphorical – from Berlin to Mexico to Europe … based on factual research and testimonies, and performed by actors who are all migrants in the UK, Closed Lands chronicles the “Free world’s” obsession with walls and our journey back to shame … this is the English premiere of Closed Lands (Terres Closes), by award-winning playwright Simon Grangeat and performed by an all female international cast”.

Heroine. Crypt at The Vaults, 4-8 Mar, 8.40pm. Produced by Snatchback and Joyous Gard.

“What makes a strong woman? Mother, maid and crone are trying to find the answer. They knew this once… It’s on the tip of their tongues… Maybe the stories we once told each other will hold the key … with stories from all across the world, including Nigeria, Mexico and the Arctic – join us for an evening celebrating our forgotten fairytale heroines”.

Sky in the Pie. Crescent at The Vaults, 6.15pm. Produced by The Feathers of Daedalus Circus.

“The Feathers of Daedalus Circus have teamed up with celebrated author and poet Roger McGough for this new wonderfully wacky children’s production inspiring young and old to fall in love with poetry. With circus, physical theatre, puppetry and projection, the Feathers explore fun and fantastical ways to play with poetry, dipping into works from Roger’s 50 year career topped up with new poems especially created for the show”. 

Too Pretty To Punch. Studio at The Vaults, 6pm. Produced and performed by Edalia Day.

“A comedy spoken word show about gender, the media and not fitting any of the boxes, full of explosive movement, original songs and kickass video projection … Too Pretty To Punch is a hilarious and uplifting journey through what it means to be trans in 21st century Britain. It reminds all of us (regardless of who we are) of the power of celebrating our existence”.

V&V. Studio at The Vaults, 3-8 Mar, 7.20pm. Produced by Sprezzatura Productions.

“In the overwhelmingly tangled world of dating apps Mia and Lottie meet online. Flirting through the beam of a phone screen, they navigate many challenges, including kiss politics – two x’s or three? When an emoji can change not just the tone of the conversation but the entire meaning of what you write, reading between the lines takes on a whole new meaning. Brought to you by Sprezzatura Productions, V&V charts two narratives: the iconic love story of literary treasure Virginia Woolf and esteemed socialite Vita Sackville-West; and a far newer story of Lottie from Tunbridge Wells and love cynic Mia”. 

Week seven (9 – 15 Mar)

Productions I will be reviewing

Sugar Coat. Forge at The Vaults, 10-15 Mar, 7.30pm. Emma Blackman Productions.

“A feminist pop-punk live music play about love, loss and lubrication … featuring an all female-identifying band and cast playing original music inspired by an eclectic mix of bands such as Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, Veruca Salt and Letters to Cleo”.

Take Care. Network Theatre, 10-15 Mar, 6.15pm. Produced by Ecoute Theatre.

Take Care follows the real-life story of Pam, a woman struggling to move her mother into a care home that’s closer to her. Along the way we meet other carers, NHS staff, politicians, journalists and MP’s all involved in the care system for older people. Darkly humorous, this documentary play shines a light on the hidden voices of carers and exposes the workings of a care system in desperate need of repair”.

When We Died. Cage at The Vaults, 10-15 Mar, 6.10pm. Produced by Alexandra Donnachie.

“He’s dead, and it’s her job to prepare and present his body for his family’s final goodbye. She often imagines what each person’s life was like. But today she doesn’t have to imagine who he is. She knows him … Faced with the body of the man who raped her eleven months ago, When We Died is a striking new play about one woman’s choice to confront her trauma and tell her story, on her terms”.

Productions I will be featuring

The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part the First. Cavern at The Vaults, 11-15 Mar, 9.20pm. Produced by Out of the Forest Theatre.

“Combining first-hand accounts from WWII and Bulgarian folk tunes, The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First sets out to investigate the suspicious circumstances of our unlikely hero’s demise. I mean, it wasn’t every day that someone stood up to the Führer… Expect satire, revisionist history and live Bulgarian folk tunes as we explore the history of Boris, his sister and their motherland: the “fairytale” Kingdom of Bulgaria”.

Week eight (16 – 22 Mar)

Productions I will be reviewing

Miles Apart Together. Studio at The Vaults, 17-22 Mar, 6pm. Produced by Paper Smokers.

“From going around the world on a bicycle to doing spectacular airshows or climbing the highest mountains on earth, Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky, Bessie Coleman and Junko Tabei fought the prejudice and scepticism that surrounded them … Though their adventures were as breathtaking, spellbinding and phenomenal as their male counterparts, where are their stories now? For one night only Annie, Bessie and Junko come back for the live recording of the podcast “Miles Apart Together” and share their stories”.

Productions I will be featuring

Beach Body Ready. Crescent at The Vaults, 17-22 Mar, 7.45pm. Produced by The Roaring Girls.

“It’s the season of cutting carbs, hitting it hard at the gym, and shaving everything from the chin down. Summer has rocked up and the media has us thinking about how our bodies aren’t up to scratch and there are companies ready to capitalise on that. We’ve been shamed, dehumanised, and humiliated for how we look and we’ve had enough.
Join The Roaring Girls for a defiantly feel-good show which sticks two fingers up at how the media says you should look”.

The Night Woman. Cavern at The Vaults, 17-18 Mar, 6.20pm. Produced by Julene Robinson.

“Unleash your bravery and join the adventure with the Night woman as she makes her way through the dark all the while receiving a delicious serving of exquisite performance, Caribbean flavours of sound and movement with a serving of Caribbean history and folktale. This is your chance to be moved. Your senses will thank you”.

Image courtesy Vault Festival
Image courtesy Vault Festival

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