Vault Festival 2018: Comedy, theatre and immersive experiences as London’s biggest arts festival returns
Returning to the tunnels underneath Waterloo this winter is one of the country’s biggest arts festivals. Now its in sixth year, the Vault Festival features over 300 shows over eight weeks. Expect a jam-packed schedule of comedy, film, circus, musicals, theatre, immersive experiences and late-night parties. As well taking over the atmospheric and historic tunnels, the festival is also expanding to satellite venues such as Waterloo East Theatre and Network Theatre. Expect to see homegrown and international talent, with a spotlight on names to watch at the Vault New Writers Award.
One of this year’s big shows is Neverland, an immersive musical adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale. Guests will come face-to-face with glittering pirates, mermaids, food fights, absinthe bars and live music from a band of lost boys. If immersive experiences floats your boat, there is also Caravan, a journey through hip-hop dance, or Lamplighters, an improvised spy story in the style of John Le Carre.
If you want to be amazed, there’s plenty of mind-blowing circus acts, including the Chivaree Circus’ award-winning re-imagining of the Persephone myth, Becoming Shades. Explore hypnotism with David Aula and Simon Evans in their show The Vanishing Mankind, or be wowed by the brilliant Madhi The Magician, who was born without hands or feet. There will also be a busy comedy schedule, with Joe Lycett, Bridget Christie, Richard Gadd, Phil Wang and Adam Riches, Mat Ewins, Graham Dickson and Joe Sutherland aiming to tickle your funny bone.
The Vault Festival promises to showcase some of the best female and BAME talent, with over 52 per cent of shows written or directed by women. Fringe First winner Katie Bonna explores gender conditioning in Paper Scissors Stone, while Edinburgh hit Glitter Punch deals with student/teacher relationship boundaries. Nicole Acquah examines racism in the UK in her powerful piece For a Black Girl, while round-table discussions on gender equality will also be providing food for thought.
Among the late-night parties at the weekends, includes Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Ball, St Patrick’s Day, the South London Soul Train and the opening and closing bashes. As well as all the entertainment, there will be plenty of options to keep you fed and watered with intimate themed bars and street food stalls.
- The Vault Festival runs from 24 January – 18 March 2018 and takes place at The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN; Network Theatre, 246a Lower Road, SE1 8SJ and Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, SE1 8TN. Nearest stations: Waterloo or Lambeth North. For more information and tickets, visit the Vault Festival website.
Read Metro Girl’s review of Neverland at The Vaults.
To find out what else is on in March, click here.
Arriving for Beauty and the Feast at The Vaults underneath Waterloo station, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. The show had been billed as a pantomime and dinner experience, which gave a hint of things to come. I’ve been to The Vaults quite a few times and love the venue for its versatility. We entered from the Leake Street tunnel entrance and the fairy tale vibe started immediately as we walked through the ‘magic mirror’ to the bar area. The bar was like a theatre set, with a melange of vintage furniture, old theatre seating, a disco ball, neon signs and drapes. We were one of the early arrivals so grabbed a suitably fantastically named cocktail to set the tone for the evening. As the bar got busier, a few characters mingled with the audience, breaking the ‘fourth wall’ as we enjoyed a chat with Fairy Liquid, the compere of the evening.
With everyone suitably loosened up with a couple of drinks, Fairy Liquid set up the evening’s agenda, with the panto itself loosely based on Beauty And The Beast. It isn’t long before the ‘Beauty’, aka Belle, arrives, in full Georgian drag splendour. Moving on to the dining room, the set design is amazing and really transports us to an 18th century French château with drapes and chandeliers. It’s a buffet, supper club setting so be prepared to make new acquaintances over your meal. The feast itself is very fairy tale like, featuring roast pumpkins, cauliflower cheese, plump sausages and blue cheesecake, followed by a ginger jelly and coconut ice cream dessert served in a tea cups [no chipped china ;-)] with mushroom-shaped meringues.
In between courses, we were treated to interludes of performance, with Belle and the Beast avoiding each other like the plague to the chagrin of Fairy Liquid, who is intent on getting them together with the encouragement of the audience. The climax of the feast gives us the happy ending we expect with the night getting suitably raucous with pop anthems, dancing on the table and some striptease. By this point, the audience were suitably tipsy and had really embraced the camp and spectacle of the event. With the cheesy soundtrack and constant flow of alcohol, it’s no surprise the evening ends on rather higher spirits than you would expect from a typical theatre experience. If you like immersive experiences with a high dose of booze, music and fabulousness, then check out Beauty and the Feast while it’s still on.
- Beauty And The Feast is on from 6 October 2017 – 4 January 2018 at The Vaults (entrance via Leake Street tunnel), Launcelot Street, Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. Shows run from Tues-Sun. Door open 6.30pm, Show starts 7.30pm. Age 16+. Tickets start from £35 (includes dinner, dessert and DJs). For booking, visit The Vaults website.
For the latest what’s on in London guide, click here.
This October, the team behind Cahoots are taking their underground revelry to a whole new level. The secret Soho basement bar is bringing their special brand of 1940s fun and frolics to an underground party at The Vaults in Waterloo.
In the Victorian arches below Waterloo station will be an evening of vintage post-war fabulousness, with live music, 1940s costumes, food and plenty of cocktails. Upon arrival, guests will be checked in at a 1940s ticket office with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Champagne. To line their stomachs, there will be war-time rations of classic British grub, such as fish-finger sandwiches and sausage rolls. Among the all-inclusive drinks on offer will be Grey Goose, Jack Daniel’s and Bombay Sapphire black-market cocktails.
The Vaults will be transformed into a WWII bunker with plenty of fun and games going on in the coves and tunnels. The main Blitz Room will feature live bands, swing dancers and retro DJs alongside a flow of Cahoots cocktails. For a more intimate experience, people can cosy up and enjoy a Cockney singalong in the 1940s coffee shop, Grey Goose Espresso Martini Bar. If you’re really looking to let loose, head to the Swing House, with Cahoots DJ The Roustabouts keeping the party swinging. And finally, if you’re needing a breather, the hidden Gentlemans Jack Room will provide some respite and a quiet cocktail or two.
- Cahoots Underground Knees Up takes place on Friday 6th October 2017 from 7pm – 1am. At The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo or Lambeth North. Tickets: Early bird £85, Regular from £95 (includes all cocktails and food). Forties dress seriously encouraged. For more information and tickets, visit the Cahoots website.
For the latest guide to what else is on in London, click here.
The rise in Speakeasy and hidden bars in the capital shows just how much of an appetite we Londoners have for secret revelry. So why not take things once step further and immerse yourself in the 1920s spirit at The Prohibition Party. The long-running event is celebrating its 10th birthday with its most fabulous party yet. Expect flappers, cads and cocktails galore in a night of dancing, drinking and gambling.
Guests are invited to sneak into secret and intimate rooms with a password to keep the feds away. There will be live bands, gramophone DJs, silent cinema, dance troupes and gambling tables. To keep up the pretense of Prohibition, the cocktail menus will be hidden in books while drinks are served in teacups. Aside from the main venue, there will be hidden bars and a secret party room for you to seek out.
Revellers will be encouraged to dress in their finest vintage wares, with lots of tassels, pearls, Mary Janes, tuxes and spats for an evening of 1920s opulence. Early arrivals (7pm-8pm) can have the chance to learn the Charleston at a dance class with the gang from Swing Patrol.
The event is organised by Bourne & Hollingsworth, known for their fabulous parties, bars and restaurant. Along with their landmark The Prohibition Party – they are also behind The Blitz Party, Dark Circus, Cocktails In The City, SS Atlantica and The Chap Olympiad.
- The Prohibition Party takes place on Saturday 30 September from 8pm-2am. Tickets from £30. The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo or Lambeth North. For tickets, visit the Prohibition Party website.
For a guide to what else is on in September, click here.
This year marks 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl. And what better way to pay tribute to the legendary children’s author than by bringing two of his most memorable characters to life. Coming to London this autumn is gruesome, immersive theatrical dining experience Dinners At The Twits.
Located deep in The Vaults below Waterloo train station, guests will be treated to 90 minutes of entertainment from the worst hosts ever. Les Enfants Terribles, the company behind last year’s immersive hit show Alice’s Adventures Underground, have teamed up with real-life Willy Wonkas, food and drink wizards Bompas & Parr to create a unique evening experience.
Upon arrival, diners will be greeted with a potent cocktail using ingredients from Mr Twit’s garden. Chose between The Terrible Shrinks (Roly Poly Bird berry and orange vodka topped with soda, garnished with a scented helium balloon) or The Twits Garden Spritz (wild nettle and thistle-infused Aperol, wild strawberry vermouth, prosecco and soda, garnished with nettles and thistles).
Guests will then take their seats with Mr and Mrs Twit at their chaotic table for a special menu conceived by Bompas & Parr. The banquet will include Wormery LIVE, Glowing Hug Tight Glue, Treasures of the Compost Heap, Bird Pie – Your Night of a Thousand Claws and Bloater Paste. To finish, you can chomp on Mr Twit’s Beardy Bar, special chocolates created specially for Dinner At The Twits. Chocolatiers Rococo Chocolates have conceived a wonderous mix of their own milk chocolate with cereal, banana, yoghurt, lapsang souchong tea and honey.
Meanwhile, you’ll be able to wash it down with half a bottle of bag-in-box wine from St. John Wines and Mr Twit’s Odious Ale – a bespoke brew by East London’s 40FT Brewery using the native yeast from Roald Dahl’s actual writing chair.
After the theatrical dinner, guests are invited to relax in the Muggle-Wumps’ Downside Up Cocktail Cavern in The Vaults for deliciously bizarre concoctions. The Cocktail Cavern will be open to all, so members of the public too scared to experience the gruesome meal can enjoy a flavour of The Twits’ world.
- Dinner At The Twits runs from 4 September – 30 October 2016. The Vaults, Launcelot Street (off Lower Marsh), Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. Minimum age 14+. Tickets: £80-£110 (feature a 90 minute show, arrival cocktail, banquet with wine, box of chocolates and hot beverage). Timings: Tues-Sat evenings: 6pm, 7.15pm and 8.30pm, Sat matinees: 12pm, 1.15pm and 2.30pm . Sundays 12pm, 1.15pm, 2.30pm and 3.45pm. For booking, visit The Twits dinner website.
- The Muggle-Wumps’ Downside Up Cocktail Cavern is open to the general public from 6pm-late Tues-Sat and has free entry.
To find out what is on in London in September, click here.
Goosebumps Alive: Discover what lurks beneath at The Vaults below Waterloo in an immersive spooky experience
It’s one of the most popular book series of all time, having spooked hundreds of millions of readers around the world. And now fans of the ’90s hit books Goosebumps can experience some of the scary tales coming to life in a new immersive, theatrical experience.
Lurking deep in the abandoned railway tunnels beneath Waterloo station will be scenes from some of American author R.L. Stine’s iconic stories, such as Stay Out Of The Basement, Night Of The Living Dummy and Say Cheese And Die! Audience members young and old will be taken on a journey testing their mettle as they venture from room to room. Among the experiences guests can expect will be being buried alive, witnessing a flock of birds crash into a window or being grappled by monsters!
The new production, which opens for previews on 6 April, will be split into two immersive experiences – Goosebumps Kids (for children aged 5-11) and Goosebumps Alive (Adults, but suitable for over 12s). Directed by Tom Salamon, the experience will also feature original artwork from original Goosebumps books illustrator Tim Jacobus and set design by Samuel Wyer (from last year’s Vaults production Alice’s Adventures Underground). The Tiger Lillies band will also be performing live intermittently during the run.
Kieron Vanstone, Director at The Vaults said: ‘I’ve wanted to take Goosebumps to the stage for years but had to make sure I could do justice to R.L. Stine’s trademark combination of horror and humour. Immersive events have become the lifeblood of London culture, from Punchdrunk to Secret Cinema, and Goosebumps is perfectly suited to the genre – these stories were made to be experienced up close, with every shiver, sound and unsettling sight! I’ve been a lifelong fan of Goosebumps – who could forget Night of the Living Dummy? – and am thrilled to be bringing these shows to London this year, along with some of the best creative talent around.’
- Goosebumps Alive is on from 14 April until 4 September 2016 (previews start 6 April), while Goosebumps Kids runs from 14 May until 4 September (Every weekend and Tues-Sunday during school holidays only). Tickets: Adults start from £32.50, Children from £15 (plus booking fees). The adult show lasts 90 minutes with entry times from Tues-Fri: 7-9.30pm, Sat 1.30-9.30pm and Sun 1.30-7.30pm. Kids show lasts 50 minutes with entry times from Sat-Sun 11am-12.30pm and school holidays Tues-Sun 11am-12.30pm.
- The Vaults, Launcelot Street (off Lower Marsh), Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information and booking, visit Goosebumps Alive website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
This February, the spirit of New Orleans is coming to London with a Mardi Gras carnival and party. As part of the six-week Vault Festival in the tunnels below Waterloo station, there will be a two-day celebration of Fat Tuesday on 5 and 6 February 2016.
Kansas Smitty’s and Shotgun Carousel are teaming up to host a late night party, featuring live music, costume parade, dancing and lots of liquor. The Kansas Smitty’s House Band will be trekking over from their East London home to bring the carnival spirit to the South Bank as they lead a parade fronted by the performers of Shotgun Carousel. Smitty’s House Band will bring the New Orleans’ 9th Ward to The Vaults with their ‘swamp rock’ blend of funk, soul, zydeco and brass band classics.
Guests will be encouraged to wear their most elaborate, imaginative and outlandish costumes with prizes for the best, with The King and Queen of Mardi Gras being crowned during the festivities.
Fat Tuesday – Mardi Gras takes place during the six-week Vault Festival, an art festival featuring live music, dance, drama, comedy and late-night parties across eight venues, three bars and a restaurant.
- Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras takes place on 5 and 6 February 2016 from 10pm-3am. At The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo or Lambeth North. Tickets: £12. For tickets, visit MardiGrasLdn.com. For more information about The Vault Festival, click here.
For a guide to what’s on in London in February, click here.
This September, a slice of New Orleans is coming to London with a mix of soul food and funky live music. For two weeks, supper club kings Slap Ya Papa will be whipping up their Louisiana-influenced culinary creations, while a rotation of entertainment supremos will be bringing the party with their live music.
The Bayou Banquet is a new pop-up, recreating the best sounds, smells and tastes of New Orleans in Victorian railway arches below Waterloo station. On offer will be a range of experiences, including supper clubs, Crescent City cocktail-fuelled parties, live music and cabaret, all-day Sunday brunches, interactive art exhibitions and auctions. With Slap Ya Papa providing the food, Marbles and Ware, Riot Jazz and Kansas Smitty will be taking turns to showcase live blues, jazz, funk and soul music.
Schedule of events:
Wednesday 16, Thursday 17 and Thursday 24 September – Slap Ya Papa Supper Club (£30). 2 dinner sittings at 7pm and 9pm.
Four courses of Louisiana soul food with the best in London’s live music.
Friday 18 September – Slap Ya Papa x Riot Jazz (£35). 1 dinner sitting @ 8pm, doors for party @ 10pm
Manchester’s Riot Jazz will be providing the music for Slap Ya Papa’s supper club, before cranking things up for the after-party until 2am.
Friday 25 September – Slap Ya Papa x Kansas Smitty (£35). 1 dinner sitting @ 8pm, doors for party @ 10pm
Mardi Gras flag boys Kansas Smitty will be providing the dinner soundtrack for Slap Ya Papa’s feast, before the party kicks off with live music and vinyl records until 2am.
Saturday 19 and Saturday 26 September – Marbles & Ware Bazaar (free entry). 10.30am-5pm.
Artisan makers and crafters will be selling their wares at a daytime market. Art and festival supremos Marbles & Ware are curating an exhibition in The Vaults gallery, featuring rising London artists inspired by the theme of Southern Wilds. The work will be auctioned off each Saturday night, while the Slap Ya Papa bar will be offering taster lunch menu.
Saturday 19 and Saturday 26 September – Marbles & Ware Bidders’ Banquet (£40). 1 dinner sitting @ 8pm
The market is clearer for a five-course feast with a frenzied bidding during the meal for items from the exhibition. Once the food is finished, there will be a New Orleans knees-up with live music and DJs.
Sunday 20 and Sunday 27 September – Slap Ya Papa presents: Egg, Bacon, Grits… SAUSAGE (£20). 2 sittings at 12pm and 2.30pm
Enjoy an all-day brunch with entertainment from Brixton bluesman and three-time UK harmonica champion Errol Linton with his accomplice and guitar virtuoso Adam Blake.
Monday 21 to Wednesday 23 September – The Bryan Batt Cabaret presents Tales from New Orleans (Mon/Tues ‐ £25 [non-dining], Wed – £40 [includes four course dinner]): Doors at 8pm.
Mad Men and 12 Years a Slave star Bryan Batt will be wowing diners with stories and songs from his hometown of New Orleans.
- Slap Ya Papa presents The Bayou Banquet, The Vaults, Launcelot Street (off Lower Marsh), Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. Takes place from 16 – 27 September 2015. For more information and booking, visit The Vaults website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
Alice’s Adventures Underground review: Feel like a child again on a fantastical immersive theatre experience
Immersive theatre and cinema has been steadily growing in popularity in London in recent years, with Secret Cinema and Punch Drunk two stellar examples. With the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland this year, theatre company Les Enfants Terribles have created an immersive journey into Wonderland in the vaults below Waterloo station.
My friend and I paid a recent visit on a Sunday afternoon. It’s admittedly a bit tricky to review as different groups have totally different experiences and I wouldn’t want to ruin it for any potential visitors so I will try to give a flavour of what to expect. Photos aren’t allowed (except in the Wonderland bar afterwards) so you are free to fully immerse yourselves in the experience without the distraction of cameraphones.
After arriving 15 minutes before our allotted time, we were put into a large group and shown into a dark, messy room full of Victoriana – the study of Lewis Carroll. It isn’t long before we were given the choice of ‘Eat Me’ or ‘Drink Me’, splitting the group in half. We chose ‘Eat Me’, so ended up going through a special door. It wasn’t long before our groups are split in half again. As our journey continued, we were taken from room to room where we met characters from Wonderland, including the White Rabbit, the Playing Cards and a female version of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Throughout the experience, there is plenty of opportunities for interaction with the residents of Wonderland. I had a brief exchange with Alice, while my friend spoke to one of the Hearts playing cards.
One of the highlights was the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – where all our original group were reunited for a fantastically chaotic tea party with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the sleepy Dormouse. My friend and I admitted we wished we had our cameras because it was such a fantastic sight. After finally getting the chance to see the terrifically scary Queen Of Hearts at the climax of show, we emerged into the atmospheric Wonderland Bar. The bar serves suitably themed cocktails and nibbles, but is also open late on Fridays and Saturday with live music and DJs.
My friend and I totally loved the show. It was a surreal and entertaining experience. The cast were brilliant and it is really down to them that the theatrical journey was so real. I was a fan of Alice In Wonderland when I was younger and the production really made me feel like a child again.
- Alice’s Adventures Underground takes place at The Vaults, Launcelot Street (off Lower Marsh), Waterloo, SE1 7AD until 30 August 2015. Nearest station: Waterloo. Tickets (should be booked in advance for specific time slots): Tues, Wed and Sunday £35, Thurs £40-£47.50, Fri and Sat £47.50. For more information and booking, visit the Alice’s Adventures Underground website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.