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Monday, 9 May 2022

REVIEW: Mulan Rouge at the Vaults

Combining the Disney hit Mulan with Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, The Vaults have transformed their space into a raunchy French club. In this version, Mulan disguises themselves as a man to take their father’s place in the war against the Huns. Their General commandeers the Moulin Rouge, and in a turn of events, they become infatuated with one of the go-go girls, Ginger. Secrets are aplenty and Mulan’s cover cannot be blown as they defend the honour of the Mulan Rouge.

We began the evening in the bar, as Mulan (Ella Cumber) and “Sindy Sinclair” warm up the crowd and play a little game to find them a romantic match. We were then called into the dining hall by stage management staff, although this was well organised- this could have been slicker and incorporated into the show. The dining hall has a promenade stage and 4 large benches, the food is creative and caters for all. The portions are good and the spacing between courses is perfect.

Friday, 13 March 2020

REVIEW: Bin Juice at The Vaults

‘Bin Juice’ directed by Anastasia Bruce-Jones is playing in The Cavern at The Vaults until the 15th March. If you’ve never been to The Vaults, as a venue it’s known for being damp, hot and dark... a very fitting setting for this play that shies away from none of these things. 

A fast paced glimpse in to a surreal world of waste disposal to the extreme is navigated by three actresses: Adeline Waby, Madison Clare and Helena Antoniou, playing ‘bin ladies’. We meet them interviewing Belinda, (Antoniou), to become their apprentice and by the end we learn the true meaning to the cost of waste disposal. 

It’s a fairly standard start to the play, watching it you feel as if the actress’s are pushing both vocally and rhythmically- but it being the first night in a new space as the run settles in this will probably subside. That being said the back and forth between Antoniou and Waby, (as Francine), is berating throughout and doesn’t feel reactive or that they are listening to each other. Throughout the piece the pair are fairly unadventurous with their choices almost bulldozing through any attempt of comic pause or dramatic tension, and it’s hard to get on board with their characters as they just seem a bit too young to be playing them. The light relief in this, and throughout the whole piece, is the wonderfully measured and detailed performance both physically as well as emotionally of Madison Clare as the slightly dim but endearing Marla. The jewel of the show is a back and forth driven by Clare about faces on food packaging- a wonderfully witty and nuanced delivery. The only time we ever hit any empathy for a character is nudged at during a speech about Marla’s fear of flies and finding her mother dead, but there just doesn’t seem enough air given to it, maybe a choice deliberately made but doesn’t pay off. 

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

REVIEW: Santi and Naz at the Vaults

Set in a small village in pre-partition India, Santi and Naz explores the friendship between two young women between 1945-1949. The short play, written by Guleraana Mir and Afshan D’souza-Lodhi, covers the growing impacts that the end of the British rule has on their lives. 

Santi (Rose-Marie Christian) dreams of being a writer and enjoys spending her days play fighting, dancing and laughing under a tree by the lake with her best friend, Naz (Ashna Rabheru). They laugh at men and practise English while slowly becoming increasingly aware of the seriousness of the political and religious shifts happening around them. Although seemingly unperturbed by Naz’s father setting her up with an unappealing older man, Santi’s frustrations begin to cause friction in their friendship. Soon before marriage, the abuse becomes apparent and the pair come together to get justice. Both performers excellently capture the essence of the energetic, aspirational women from start to finish, with evidence of the maturing and deeper understanding of the world around them as the play goes on. 

Thursday, 5 December 2019

REVIEW: Cinderella at The Vaults

An immersive and modern take on the classic fairy-tale made famous by Disney and performed up and down the country every December, Cinderella at The Vaults was more of a Christmas party than a theatre show.

Set in a pub, the bar sits along one wall, with audience seated in both cabaret style and theatre style along the three remaining sides. We are welcomed into the pub and shown to our seats by the characters as they inhabit the venue. The actors truly inhibit their characters and indulge in playing with the audience, teasing them and welcoming them into the world.

Mike, played by Jimmy Fairhurst and taking on the usual role of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, is the host of karaoke and warms up the audience with both his dress sense and a wonderful rendition of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. Once the audience have had a chance to get a drink from the bar and been sniffed by Buttons the dog, the show begins as every fairy-tale should: with a rendition Bohemian Rhapsody.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

REVIEW: Red Palace at the Vaults

Red Palace, concept of Laura Drake Chambers, is an immersive theatrical experience underground in the Waterloo Vaults. For a VIP experience, you can start the evening with a mouth-watering 4 course meal curated by Annie McKenzie and expertly designed cocktails. The banquet, held on the Mezzanine level of the Palace, is an excellent atmosphere and a great way to throw yourself into the show. The food is not themed or linked to the show in any way -apart from a toffee apple dessert- which makes it appear more as a money-making scheme rather than to deepen your involvement with the performance.

Revolving around famous fairytales, Red Palace loosely connects main characters to this morbid, secretive story. Characters begin to twist and twirl around the tables to introduce themselves and spill secrets to the guests. We are then introduced to the foul-mouthed Prince of the palace -a vibrant drag-king- who has invited guests to celebrate his 1000thday of reign. This day is also when the prophecy of his death will become true; a ‘woman’s sickness’ and ‘red cloak’ will avenge him and end his power. After an eery dance by women draped in red and a captivating silks performance, we are then welcomed to explore the many facets of the mysterious palace. 

Friday, 19 July 2019

REVIEW: Games for Lovers at The Vaults

You’ve got a match! Wait, did they just swipe left?!

It is estimated that there are some 850 million swipes taking place around the world each day. Now, I’m no mathematician, nor am I a millionaire matchmaker to the stars, but I think it’s safe to say that the population worldwide have one thing in common; finding love

And love is certainly in the air down at The Vaults in Waterloo in the world premiere production of ‘Games for Lovers’; a new comedy play written by Ryan Craig, and directed by Anthony Banks.

We are introduced to smitten kittens Logan (Calum Callaghan) and Jenny (Tessie Orange-Turner), alongside hopeless singletons Martha (Evanna Lynch) and Darren (Billy Postlethwaite); each longing to find the one via their own uniquely designed algorithm. Martha, one of the worst flirters in history is desperate to pluck up the courage to ask out ‘Doctor Boner’ at her work. Enlisting the help of life long best friend Logan, and self-proclaimed master of all things swag and chat related Darren, Martha weighs up her options and attempts to partake in flirting school 101. But when jealous girlfriend Jenny gets envious of how much time Logan is spending with Martha, there is bound to be trouble in paradise, with a diagnosis of a broken heart. 

Thursday, 27 June 2019

REVIEW: Bare: A Pop Opera at The Vaults Theatre

Bare: A Pop Opera then Bare: A Rock Musical then Bare: The Musical has been rewritten and reimagined many times in its underexposed and underrated life. However - Bare: A Pop Opera is back in London after a run at The Union Theatre and then The Greenwich Theatre a few years back. This time, it’s chosen The Vaults as its home with Julie Atherton at the reins, directing. With book and lyrics by Jon Hartmere, and book and music by Damon Intrabartolo, Bare: A Pop Opera follows the students of St Cecilia’s as they explore sex, drugs, queer identity, and prepare to bare their souls.

Before talking about the show, I would like to comment on the event itself. Obviously, being a reviewer, I have attended many press nights but this one seemed pretty terribly organised. Upon arriving to the, not so easy to find, venue, the staff didn’t really seem to know what was going on which wasn’t the best start to a theatre experience. The doors opened at 7pm to the bar and the ticket collection was unclear. Cast members were walking back and forth through the bar chatting to friends and there were no toilets available until the house was open at around 7.15pm. The seating was unreserved but divided into coloured sections for different price points. This caused a lot of drama and confusion among patrons. The show went up twenty minutes late and finished at 10.20pm - much later than expected.

Saying that though, the venue was quirky and interesting but not great for being able to see the stage and action.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

REVIEW: Fight Night at the Vault Festival

Deep under Waterloo, in Unit 9 of the Vaults, Exit Production’s Fight Night transpires the night of a multi-million-pound live boxing match. Following an atmospheric walk within the graffiti-covered tunnels to location, the audience is split into two teams and taken to the arena to meet the fighters, Joe Williams (Pete Grimwood) and Ian ‘Bam Bam’ Bradshaw (Edward Linard). We experience full control over the fighters’ decisions in the tense build up to the fight and support them during medicals, warm ups, interviews and even inside the ring.

Overall, it is a well-structured performance, with an energetic opening from Brendan O’Rourke and referee Simon Pothecary. The sound quality of the microphones often made it difficult to hear commentary, but nonetheless the event was off to an exhilarating start. Unfortunately, this was not sustained in the thirty-minute section before the fight and did not meet expectation as it was unclear where I was meant to be or who I was supposed to speak to. The audience is responsible for seeking information to be knowledgeable enough to place bets on the fighters, however, more encouragement was required to be drawn into the scripted scenes. Several people peeled off to join the glitz and glamour or become judges for the fight, which left only a few remaining to participate in incredibly gripping moments in the show.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

REVIEW: Sounds and Sorcery Celebrating Disney Fantasia at The Vaults

The Vaults are taking you back to your childhood with a special immersive, Disney experience with Sounds and Sorcery. This concert brigs together the classical music which featured in the 1940’s film and contemporary staging. 

First of all your given a headset, all of the music you’re about to hear plays through a device which reacts to sensors in the area. It’s true, it is innovative especially in one of the rooms which has four different areas to it; when crossing a boundary the music changes; however it doesn’t meet up to the expectations it has set out. The technology really lets the concept down. Cutting out at crucial moments to leave you watching performers panting and audience members walking through beautifully lit and designed areas in silence and it really highlighted the fact that if you can’t do something then you probably shouldn’t. 

Friday, 6 April 2018

REVIEW: Teddy at The Vaults

As you walk down Lancelot lane and into the Vaults, you begin the journey back in time to the 1950's, a post world war era when the East End of London was still showing the scars of the blitz. The burnt out old car, Variety posters and old ads for such products as Brillo, Camp coffee and Birds Custard help set the scene. The corrugated iron fencing shields us from the ruined buildings , and the Broken Hearts , a three piece band are playing music reminiscent of the era in the corner of the room. As the lights darken, a single white spot back lights the arrival of the Lead singer,  Johnny Valentine, and evocative picture is created of the start of the first teenager movement, the Teddy Boys.

The simple story set over a few days is of two young teenagers, escaping the oppression of the parents home into the world of the Teddy boys appears to be inspired by a single picture taken by the film director Ken Russell called "Your dreams" of a young Judy( as female teddy's were known) dressed a blazer and thin bow tie. We meet her, here called Josie and played with a delightful charm by Molly Chesworth taking care to dress before sneaking out of her house. Her preparations are mirrored by Teddy (an another excellent performance by George Parker). Together they take us through ruined churches, the coronet cinema, a pawnbroker, the streets of London to Teddy's night club where Johnny Valentine and the broken hearts are performing a secret gig. Through the journey we learn of the Teddy boys attitudes and culture. They make a lovely couple, a sort of English Bonnie and Clyde although Teddy's dream is to be a singer and Josie's is to go to California. 

Sunday, 18 February 2018

REVIEW: Boys at The Vaults

The eight-strong cast of Boys brings to the Vault Festival a flamboyant celebration of boyhood, made even more momentous by the excruciating lack of representation that young adults suffer in mainstream theatre. 

The gang bursts on to stage, accompanied by an upbeat track, before one of them stops everything to address the audience directly: "The best way to start a show about boys," he reckons, "is to pick a fight." The scene rewinds and the clan erupt on stage again, pumped and ready for a scuffle, only to find out that their victim is refusing to play. A discreet chatter amongst themselves and the fight scene can resume. The audience cracks immediately, setting the tone for the gleeful and empowering hour that follows. 

Despite its playfulness, this isn’t a performance that should be judged by its cover and there's much more to it than mere entertainment value. It is, in fact, a deep piece of devised and physical theatre, used to share personal histories and showcase pride for a heritage that is rooted in beautiful countries like Jamaica, Cameroon, Afghanistan, India and the Philippines. 

Monday, 12 February 2018

REVIEW: Think of England at The Vaults

Love, patriotism and women's self-determination are at the epicentre of Think of England, a play that suitably exploits one of the Vaults' tunnel-shaped performing spaces to recreate a WWII underground refuge.

Audiences are invited to the party organised by Vera (Madeline Gould) and Bette (Leila Seykes) for the soldiers based in the city, which is described by the creatives as an immersive Blitz experience of love, scandal and swing dancing. Sat along the two walls of the tunnel, onlookers are subject to what I call a "tennis-court effect", where, to follow characters talking from opposite ends, they are forced to continually rotate their heads from left to right. String this out for 110 minutes and you'll appreciate how likely it is to return home with a sore neck. A better use of the space, would have considered the opposite sides for different scenes. 

When the two women are joined by three Canadian air force officers, the drama takes a turn. Bette gets involved in a romance with the timid Corporal Frank Lamb (Stefan Menaul), whilst Vera more explicitly seduces the arrogant Lieutenant Tom Gagnon. Less relevance in the plot is given to the Lieutenant Bill Dunne (Matthew Biddulph), who pops in an out of the room before actively contributing to its unfolding.
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