NICK FERRIS reviews Anna X at VAULT Festival.  Here is a play for the social media age: a frenetic rollercoaster ride of carefully curated Instagram updates, magazines and exhibitions where creative content is merely incidental, and Genesis, the invite-only ‘Tinder for celebrities’. Dextrously squeezed into one hour by exciting up-and-coming director Daniel Raggett, Anna X captures the social milieu of New York’s creative millennial elite, and the desperate young people attempting to break in. Interlaced narratives present Anna, a fearlessly confident new player on the city’s art scene promising to champion new kinds of art and exhibition spaces, alongside Ariel, the founder of Genesis, who meets and falls in love with Anna one night at an absurdly-named ‘immersive nightlife experience’. Both are newly arrived in New York, both intent on disrupting destinies their past lives dictated they should have followed. Ariel was set for life of liberal suburban conformity in San Francisco with…Continue Reading

Anna X

PHOEBE GARTHWAITE reviews Hear Me Howl at VAULT Festival. Lydia Rynne’s Hear Me Howl, directed by Kay Michael, was a one-woman whirlwind of comedy and emotion jam-packed into an hour. Thirty-year-old Jess, played by Alice Pitt-Carter, finds herself unintentionally pregnant and begins to question the life she has and what she wants from the future. The pregnancy news sparks a new zest for life within Jess and she spontaneously joins a post-punk band (‘like punk, but they give even less of a shit’). Her hilarious inner rebellious youth shows itself. Pitt-Carter carried the piece with both vivacious energy and real vulnerability. At the beginning of the show when she finds out about her pregnancy, Jess wittily bats off her reaction to it. Looking for solace in audience laughs, there was a sense that she was performing to herself as well as the crowd, playing at being okay. Rynne’s incredibly relatable…Continue Reading

Hear Me Howl

SONIA CHUI reviews Opal Fruits at VAULT Festival. Opal Fruits promises to deconstruct stereotypes of working-class women in an exploration of, as the play’s description boasts, ‘the fetishisation of the feral female.’ Difficult to condense and categorise, the play relies heavily on audience interaction, with Holly Beasley-Garrigan creating an immersive experience that prods the audience to rethink questions of tokenism, the misappropriation of working-class culture, and narrative ownership. By telling the stories of several different women, and blurring the lines between public and private, Beasley-Garrigan addresses the tension between the depiction of working-class women as ‘female vice’ and the ‘void’ which these unsupported women face every day. The tone of Beasley-Garrigan’s experimental play is encapsulated by the set and production design. As the audience finds their seat, drum and bass music can be heard, setting the scene of a rave. The set is covered in household necessities, a messy pile…Continue Reading

Opal Fruits

SOPHIE PARKER reviews Blue Departed at the VAULT Festival.  As part of the Vault Festival 2019, emerging playwright Serafina Cusack’s latest work Blue Departed explores the relationship between heroin addiction, lost love and fourteenth century Italian poetry. As the production illustrates, there are more crossovers between the three than may initially be imagined, but the piece also raises the question of where to draw the line between inspiration and adaptation in dramatic works. The play pulls Dante Alighieri (Mark Conway), most famous for his Divine Comedy, six hundred years into the future to our present day and gives him a heroin addiction. The now near-legendary object of Dante’s love, Beatrice (Rebecca Layoo), joins him in the modern world. Following a series of traumatic events, Beatrice is dead on the floor and Dante has retreated into a perpetual high, speaking to the rotting corpse in his kitchen and hearing her speak back. This is where the…Continue Reading

Blue Departed

MALEEHA MALIK reviews one of VAULT Festival’s closing shows, Maisie Says She Loves Me. As the audience cross the stage to their seats, actor (and director) David Aula is already sitting in the performance space. He’s a big jovial man, with a scruffy beard and glasses from behind which twinkling eyes are watching shrewdly. It is a bit uncomfortable sat up in the chairs with this man expectantly observing his crowd but then, with a wry smile, he stands up. Maisie Says She Loves Me is a one-man monologue with an incredible script written by Jimmy Osbourne. Throughout the play Aula draws on the audience, handing out beers and wine to various members but most significantly projecting the character of Maisie onto a front row theatregoer. The play is a story about its protagonist Sheldon’s life and his past, and gradually implies how his relationship with his father has shaped who he…Continue Reading

Maisie Says She Loves Me

ROSEMARY MOSS talks to writer and director David Aula about his new show Maisie Says She Loves Me, playing at the VAULT Festival this week. At a time when aggressive, macho men dominate the political world, it can be a comfort to encounter those who are unafraid of voicing their vulnerabilities and insecurities. David Aula, director and star of Maisie Says She Loves Me, one of the last in a series of plays at the VAULT festival, strongly advocates the need to redress perceptions of masculinity in society. Through the monologue of protagonist Sheldon, the play hopes to send the message that in order to be ‘full humans, worthy of partners and being loved, [men] not only need to be highly respectful of those around them but of themselves and have emotions, be vulnerable, and open themselves up to feeling and failing’. Aula is experienced in all aspects of theatre. Variously a…Continue Reading

How To Be Loved

OLIVIA LUNN reviews This Must Be The Place at the VAULT Festival. Ripe with millennial cynicism, This Must Be The Place deconstructs the act of journeying and the motives for doing so amidst the suffocation of technology. Fittingly performed at the VAULT Festival under Waterloo Station, a show about individuals on the fringe of society is given the perfect introduction by the layers of graffiti that line the entrance tunnels protruding from Leake Street. With a fresh and captivating style that can feel both conversational and at times even like spoken word, collaborators Brad Birch and Kenneth Emson confront the audience with questions of identity, and its construction through our surrounding environment and people, through journeying, and through technology. All this is played out through the lenses of two separate yet interconnected stories. One is static: Matty (Hamish Rush) and Tate (Feliks Mathur) pass time reminiscing and speculating whilst waiting to embark upon a life-changing…Continue Reading

This Must Be The Place

SUSANNAH BAIN reviews Celestial Ape at VAULT Festival. When I arrived at the wonderfully oddly decorated Vaults – splendid lights, mismatched furniture, and an odd mix of old sounds and Carly-Rae Jepsen playing over the speakers – I was expecting only the highest excellence from Celestial Ape. I interviewed writer/performer James King last week, who bewitched me with incredible ideas and plans: an ‘apocalyptic variety show’ in numerous acts, making clever and witty comment on the horrible, post-Trump, post-Brexit predicament we are currently in. This would then be followed by a profoundly moving story, telling of a chimpanzee who goes to space as part of a Russian program. The description of the play, and the ideas underlying it, suggested a piece of brilliantly original and creative theatre. And though it was both of these things, I was slightly disappointed with what I found. The variety show did not quite meet its description. The sketches, while pulsing with witty ideas,…Continue Reading

Celestial Ape

DANIEL LUBIN reviews The Swarm at the VAULT Festival. The Swarm opens by confronting the British crowd with its deepest darkest fear: audience participation. Whilst the actors lie in a huddle on the dusty floor of a darkened tunnel at The Vaults, a recorded voice in a strangely distorted melody commands the theatregoers to hum to ‘activate’ the bees. After a silence, some test the water with tentative grumbles before backing down into silent embarrassment. We were invited to form a collective, to unite through music of the most basic kind, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to. The bees went on to show us exactly how it’s done. The show is wonderfully obscure and creative, a bizarre and mesmerising combination of physical theatre, dance, recorded soundscape and live operatic performance, which applauds the mechanisms of nature. The idea can be framed as an artistic representation of a very scientific study into the…Continue Reading

The Swarm

JESS HOWLEY-WELLS reviews Wretch at the VAULT Festival. ‘London’s answer to Edinburgh’s Fringe’ (according to Time Out magazine) comes hidden away within the labyrinthine Vaults beneath Waterloo: The VAULT Festival. From comedy to drama, film to music, the walls of The Vaults are ringing with theatre, and in return the audiences pack out every corner. The vibe is completely unique, and exactly right for new theatre to succeed: there is a certain electricity about this place. In the Brick Hall, one of The Vaults’ many theatrical nooks and crannies, Interval Productions’s Wretch debuted. The one-act play tells the deeply moving story of Amy and Irena’s coincidental reunion, one year after their first encounter, in a hostel for the vulnerably housed. When the play opens, we see two women ready for new beginnings: Amy is a gregarious yet fragile twenty-something, recently out of rehab and ready for a stable income and a room…Continue Reading


JESS HOWLEY-WELLS talks to TORI ALLEN-MARTIN about her new show Wretch at VAULT Festival. Coming into 2017, Victoria Sadler–a prolific arts and culture writer based in London–compiled a stock-take of the work of female playwrights across six major theatres in London – or the ‘Big Six’ as she calls them. These were: the National Theatre, The Old Vic, The Young Vic, Royal Court Theatre, Donmar Warehouse and the Almeida. Her findings were simply offensive. Of the twenty-two shows put on across The National Theatre last year, only four were written by women (excluding co-credits). The Young Vic’s eighteen productions gave only three female playwrights a voice – and eclipsing even these meagre figures, Donmar Warehouse didn’t showcase a single female playwright in the entirety of 2016. It is not as if there are no excellent female playwrights in the industry – you need only look to Debbie Tucker Green, Nina Raine, Bola…Continue Reading

Creating Platforms

SUSANNAH BAIN interviews JAMES KING, the writer behind Celestial Ape at VAULT Festival. I call James King on Saturday afternoon, four days before his new play, Celestial Ape, opens. A friendly, if slightly rushed, voice picks up. He is in rehearsals and I wait as he leaves the studio space. From the promotional material, Celestial Ape looks like an eclectic production – an exciting mixture of wide-ranging dramatic elements thrown together to express a terrifying political climate overshadowed by fears of a potential ‘apocalypse’. I am worried about trivialising: 2016 was a painful year in too many ways, and I am worried King will ridicule it without delving into its political and emotional implications as the best theatre can do. We start with the inspirations behind the production: he tells me that he had for a long time been planning a short story about a Soviet space monkey. He is quick to point out that although technically the Soviets sent…Continue Reading

An Apocalyptic Variety Show