The lights open as the sky dims slowly. A crowd amasses in a railway arch snaking beneath Waterloo on a January, all wrapped in their winter clothes but carrying grins in their faces. The once-ignored corners now become the highlight of the season; it has been as such since 2012. Magic, after all, were supposed to happen in places they weren’t expected.
In its first debut, The Vaults, a three-dimensional anthology of various stories ranging from stage plays to stand-up comedies, only began with 25 shows. These performances embraced over 7,000 people in over three weeks. There is no surprise that as time passes, its popularity and audience grew. Today, the fringe festival has inched itself almost as the same popularity as Edinburgh, only treading on different genres.
Shows to keep an eye on
One must walk around with a map of the theatres; there is a web of performance spaces here, starting from the Waterloo East Theatre, to more unsung places, like bookshops and open garages. Peer into quirky locations and even shipping containers, because chances are, one of the 400 shows are lodged there. At the Dirby Theatre, Nathaniel Hall throws hilarious shades at growing up HIV positive in a despondent world. The Thelmas reign as Santi &Naz in a tale about womanhood and the partition of India. Other global stories, such as the current Hong Kong protests, are also tackled. Simon Caine pokes fun at anxiety in Every Room Becomes a Panic Room and Amy Gwilliam—local satire and property developer—shares her topsy-turvy interactive tour for Waterloo real estate. Relationships are dissected, selves introspected, and there are performances for the earthly and the space-bound.
There are chances to dance and dine along the way, with emphasis on social responsibility with sustainable alternatives, for other than hearts, the planet needs saving, too. The Vaults is the perfect place to wave all colours, to succumb into various discourses that invoke concepts of what it is to be human and alive. It could be awful or amazing, depending on one’s taste, and if one show doesn’t satisfy, there is always more to see—the festival runs until from January 28 until March 22. www.thevaults.london ◼
© This article was first published online in Jan 2020 – World Travel Magazine.