The best shows to see at Vault Festival, London’s answer to the Edinburgh Fringe
After a two year hiatus, the UK’s second biggest festival is underway beneath Waterloo Station. Adam Bloodworth spicks out the top shows
T he UK’s second biggest festival has opened its doors in a hundred-year-old vault under Waterloo Station. The Vault Festival programmes features over 500 performers spanning comedy, theatre and circus, with shows running throughout the day until 3am, when seated audiences make way for debauched club nights.
It’s been a long time since the Vault team inhabited London’s Leake Street. This marks the festival’s first year back since the pandemic. Their 2020 festival was cut short just as Vault was just becoming more widely known, and the two following years were cancelled. Vault Festival feels like a slice of the Edinburgh Fringe in London, only you’re in a subterranean vault that twists and turns forever. In the dark down there, it can be hard to tell what time it is, but that adds to the fun – you end up booking another show, thinking it’s 9pm when it’s actually 11. Here are some of our top picks for this year.
UNMISSABLE THEATRE SHOWS
Edinburgh Fringe shows from 2022 take on revised forms at Vault, not least Liv Ello’s staggering dark comedy Swarm, a response to David Cameron calling migrants by the same name, asking who’s toxic, us or them. Good Grief is about a dying man’s last wish for a show to be made about death, and Intruder | Intruz follows an actor who moves to Scotland to become an actor and gets viciously attacked.
UNMISSABLE CABARET SHOWS
Cabaret can mean absolutely anything, but it’s not all naked people being provocative (sadly). Vault also has spoken word acts and live performance art, but we’re sticking with the silly stuff because it’s a real escape from this miserable January. Rosa Garland’s Trash Salad caught our eye: it’s a clown act with striptease, lip syncing and a “lettuce themed opera” running from 31 January to 1 March. Katherine and Pierre is a musical involving dance and drag where a chaotic couple’s life story is retold to Katy Perry Tunes. It runs from 18-19 Feb.
THE FLAIR GROUND
There’s even more reasons than ever to miss the last Tube and stay out late. The Flair Ground is the dedicated area for late night entertainment. Expect the general vibe to be drag queens poking at audiences’ darkest fears and cabaret performers swirling uncomfortably close. House of Burlesque, Dykes on Mics, Pecs, JuiceBox and Church of Pussy Liquor are some of the tropes putting on shows. ‘Lates’ begin at 10.30 on Friday and Saturday nights with a big opening party this Friday, something called The House of Naked on February 3 and queer karaoke spectacular Dykes on Mikes runs until 24 February. £ Vault Festival runs until 14 April and admission into the Vaults bar is free. Tickets are available on the website or you can buy tickets from the on-site box office.
Vault Festival runs until 14 April and admission into the Vaults bar is free. Tickets are available on the website or you can buy tickets from the on-site box office