Feature: Innovation and Inclusivity: A Closer Look at VAULT Festival 2018

Vault Festival is back, and larger than ever. Catering to more and more people, VAULT has shifted to accommodate a more adventurous and excitable audience, and the Festival Directors are commenting on what looks to be a ‘longer, later, wilder, smarter and funnier’ series of events!

VAULT festival have been meticulous this year in regards to inclusivity, and all areas have been covered to ensure that the performances they show cover a diverse and accurate spread of the population. Partnering with the Integrated Fringe platform this year, VAULT Festival plans to fully showcase the work of disabled artists, discussing both physical and mental health in disability. Working alongside Mind The Gap performance academy, Silent Faces and Georgia Morell, VAULT has ensured that disabled artists are able to access their work.

Performances discussing BAME experiences are thorough too; with plays such as For A Black Girl confronting the notion that the United Kingdom is post-racism or beyond racist notions, as well as upcoming star Nicole Henriksen’s second solo show, A Robot in Human Skin, is a heartfelt look at mental health, and the ways we treat and understand it.

VAULT Festival is committed to female-led work, with over 52% of shows this year written or directed by women, a statistic they are very proud to discuss! Fringe First winner Katie Bonna showcases her piece Paper Scissors Stone, discussing conditioning of gender, and Some Riot Theatre’s critically acclaimed Glitter Punch talks of the boundaries of the relationship between a teacher and student.

Within these female-led works is Nest, created by Australian award-winning playwright Katy Warner. Shortlisted from 1600 plays for the Theatre503 playwriting award in 2016 as well as Live Theatre’s Lab Bursary in 2017, Nest is a love story of the working class, messy and beautiful. From a council estate, Jade is always alone until Liam accidentally knocks on her door looking for a nearby party. Focusing on these two, it discusses the lives of these people lost and forgotten by society, left with only each other. Nest will be playing at The Vaults from 28th February until the 4th March.

Robyn Bennett - Nest - VAULT Festival 2018
Iona Macleod Photography – Nest – VAULT Festival 2018

It goes without saying that the VAULT Festival is ever-growing and expanding to accommodate many more genres and ensure a more accessible space for a wider group of theatre-goers, and this year exemplifies this. For the first time, they’re proud to announce their VAULT Comedy Festival, to run for eight weeks from January 24th. Over these eight weeks, consisting of over 125 shows, new and up-and-coming comics will be performing alongside award-winning comedians, with rising stars such as Joe Lycett and Bridget Christie as well as critically-acclaimed shows from Joe Sutherland, Graham Dickson and Mat Ewins.

If musicals and cabaret are an interest, writer Isla van Tricht and composer Guy Woolf are showing Great Again, exploring the ever-sensitive and complex nature of post-Trump America, and this absurd political climate is reflected in the dystopia of The People’s Rock: A Musical from Nevertheless She, within which a naïve young woman tries to navigate this climate with the guidance of 2020 Presidential candidate, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

Family entertainment and late shows are available too, with This Egg performing Me & My Bee, which is quoted to be ‘a political party disguised as a party party, disguised as a comedy show’ – and this multi-layered and wild ride will attract children and adults to save the world, bee by bee. For those wanting theatre running later into the night, themed parties have been specially designed throughout the Festival, with a Valentine’s gathering, a Mardi Gras celebration, as well as the South London Soul Train, an evening of soul, Motown and funk – which looks particularly exciting!

With so much expansion, the VAULT Festival has, for the first time, expanded out of The Vaults and will perform in the Waterloo East Theatre. Alongside this, the Network Theatre will still also be receiving yet more shows, and it seems that the Festival is outgrowing itself and ever expanding. 2018 looks to be the most exciting year yet for them!

A performance of particular note and excitement is Mahdi Gilbert’s Mahdi the Magician; a chance to experience a card magician with a unique style and impressive sleight of hand, managing to captivate an audience. The catch? He’s not got hands or feet. Bullied in his younger years for his physical differences, Mahdi dreamed of a career as a professional magician, but the snag always seemed to be that every book, every document ever published on being a magician required a performer to have two hands.

Mahdi the Magician - VAULT Festival 2018
Mahdi the Magician – VAULT Festival 2018

Nevertheless, Mahdi worked around this, developing his own skill set and techniques, and where once he struggled to pick up a deck or cards, he has developed since his first performance at age 14, and has now travelled the world, managing to fool the legendary Penn and Teller, receive extraordinary praise from Derren Brown and be touted to be remembered as one of the great magicians of our time by Juan Tamariz. With praise echoing across a wide community of dedicated and skilled magicians, and the tale of overcoming those who had bullied and ridiculed him, fighting through his loneliness and depression to a point where he is now internationally recognised is one which should not be missed by anyone. Touted as a man who ‘performs wonders without hands and walks the Earth without feet’, Mahdi the Magician looks to be an amazing exploration of magic, looking beyond what often would be considered limits. Mahdi the Magician is playing from the 31st January to the 4th February at The Vaults.

For more information about VAULT Festival 2018, visit https://vaultfestival.com/

We also have a number of guest posts by VAULT 2018 artists, including Holly Casey and Emma Pritchard.