Now in its sixth year, London’s biggest performing arts festival is set to take over Waterloo with 250 individual shows, its first New Writers award, and a series of roundtable discussions tackling gender equality in theatre. One of the founders of VAULT Festival, Tim Wilson, tells the Weekender why this is the most diverse programme to date, writes Laura Burgoine…

“Attendance goes up every year,” Tim said. “In the sense of capturing London’s attention we’re seeing the difference.”

The arts platform, in the railway tunnels beneath Waterloo station, picked up where the Old Vic Tunnels left off. “The Old Vic Tunnels shut in 2012, and that was the start of the Vaults,” Tim said. “London has a good history of these archways; people hold it close to their heart.”

He highlights Becoming Shades as one show not to be missed. “It’s steam punk circus noir cabaret, and they’re doing a show for the whole eight weeks at 9:30pm every night,” Tim said. “It’s a perfect wild adventure into a totally different visual experience. They’re a rag tag band, who’ve come together into a super group of circus and party promoters.”

Another big new show is Neverland the musical, by the same guys who presented the immersive Great Gatsby last year. “It’s an immersive musical based in Neverland with Hook and all the gang,” Tim said.

1200 people applied to take part in the Vaults this year. “Some shows aren’t made yet when we commission them. We make that clear to audiences when it’s a Vaults original,” Tim said.
The shows are all Fringe-length with a one hour running time. “That way you can see a couple of things, not spend a huge amount of time and money, and it’s a great night in a cool place where you can see a wide variety of things,” Tim said.

“Come out and cleanse your imaginative palate, and have a cold beer and chat afterwards.”

Other must-see shows include: Police Cops in Space; “absolutely brilliantly funny show from an amazing little company who do very physical comedy”, Red Bastard: Lie with Me; “he’s a horrific comedy monster and it’s pretty aggressive audience participation but incredibly funny and very acerbic”, Gypsy Queen: “this particularly speaks to LGBT audiences” and the semi-autobiographical For a Black Girl

“We try to make the festival as broad as possible, and reflective of what a London audience is going to want to see,” Tim said. “We should hit 65,000 people attending this year; we have to make the festival as broad and inclusive as possible.”

This year eleven Waterloo venues are taking part, including Waterloo East theatre, Network theatre, the Traveling Through Bookshop, and a new space on the graffiti tunnel called the Maze.