Five shows to see during the last week of VAULT Festival.
A verbatim clown show about grief, an interactive play about the climate crisis, a solo show about anxiety, and more...
Hello, and welcome to The Crush Bar, a weekly newsletter about theatre written by me, Fergus Morgan.
Since January, this newsletter has been focusing on VAULT Festival, publishing in-depth interviews with artists performing there, plus weekly picks of five shows to see. This is eighth and last of those, as this is the eighth and last week of the festival - and the final few days it will ever spend in the railway arches underneath Waterloo, following its eviction.
You can read more about that eviction, and about the future of VAULT Festival in my interview with co-founder and director Andy George from a few weeks back. If you haven’t donated to the #SaveVAULT campaign yet, you can do so here. And if you haven’t managed to catch anything at the festival yet, then you have until Sunday to do so!
A quick reminder that you can support this newsletter by becoming a paid subscriber for just the price of a cup-and-a-half of coffee a month, via the button below. If you want to find out more about The Crush Bar - including promo opportunities - then click here.
That’s all for now. More from me at the bottom, but first: five shows to see during the last week of VAULT Festival!
Good Grief - Ugly Bucket
Liverpool-based company Ugly Bucket is a firm favourite of The Crush Bar: long-term readers will remember that artistic director Grace Gallagher was this newsletter’s first ever interviewee, way back in January 2021!
Ugly Bucket combine clowning, mime and verbatim theatre into hilarious, heart-breaking shows unlike anything else. The company tackled post-graduate depression with its debut show Bost-Uni Plues, and sex with follow-up 2 Clowns 1 Cup.
Good Grief is the company’s third show, exploring death and bereavement. It premiered online in early 2021, then ran to acclaim as part of the New Diorama Theatre’s Untapped Award at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer. Now, the company are closing a nationwide tour with seven shows at VAULT Festival. You can read my 2021 review of Good Grief here, and book tickets via the button below.
Con-Version - Paper Mug Theatre
Paper Mug Theatre is a London-based company formed in 2019 by East 15 Acting School graduates Rory Thomas-Howes, Josh Tucker and Sebastian Gardner. The trio have made three wildly different shows so far: two-handed comedy I Lost My Virginity To Chopin’s Nocturne In B-Flat Minor, sensitive drama A Partnership, and madcap zombie thriller Steve And Tobias Versus Death, which I saw in Edinburgh last August.
Con-Version is Paper Mug Theatre’s new show. Written and produced by Thomas-Howes and directed by Chalk Line Theatre’s Sam Edmunds, and performed by a six-strong cast, it runs for seven shows at VAULT Festival this week. You can check out a trailer, made by ChewBoy Productions, here.
Thomas-Howes is a queer, Midlands-born creative, whose work has been longlisted for the Bruntwood Prize and previously performed at Theatre503. With Con-Version, he turns his attention to the topic of conversion therapy, and its effects on an ordinary British family. Expect “misdirects, thrills and spectacle” in this “genre-defying” show. You can get tickets via the button below.
Burnout - ShyBairn
ShyBairn is a three-strong theatre company formed of director-producer Caitlin Evans, producer Becky Jones, and designer Nic Farr, which creates shows about contemporary issues alongside campaigning for social justice – and does it all in an environmentally sustainable way.
Previous ShyBairn projects include 2020 two-hander Talk Propa, a comedy deconstruction of northern stereotypes, and This Is What Utopia Looks Like, a performance installation reimagining the future of society that was at Camden People’s Theatre earlier this year, and that you can get a sense of via this video. ShyBairn was one of Breach Theatre’s associate companies for 2021-22, too.
Burnout is ShyBairn’s new show, opening with three performances at VAULT Festival this weekend, before touring to Whitley Bay, Keswick, Newcastle and Reading. Written by rising star Nicole Acquah, directed by Evans, created with activists from across the UK, and performed by Lekhani Chirwa and Chloe Wade, it is an interactive two-hander exploring the climate crisis and more. You can get tickets via the button below.
You Are Going To Die - Adam Scott-Rowley
Adam Scott-Rowley is the LAMDA-trained performer who created the critically-acclaimed, award-winning This Is Not Culturally Significant, the brutal, bizarre, sad, surreal – and entirely nude – solo show that saw Scott-Rowley portray dozens of desperate characters over the course of an hour.
That show debuted at VAULT Festival back in 2017, before transferring to The Bunker, and then embarking on an international tour. You Are Going To Die is Scott-Rowley’s first new show since then. Created with Joseph Prowen and Tom Morley, it runs for seven performances at VAULT Festival this week.
The blurb gives little away, but suggests the show might be along similar lines to This Is Not Culturally Significant. “Performed entirely naked, You Are Going to Die is a nail-biting descent into the loneliness, pain, and existential anxiety of our time,” it reads. “It’s fucking funny, too.” You can get tickets via the button below.
Rapture - Pink Sky Theatre Company
Rapture is a new play from writer-director Sophie Leydon and her LGBTQIA+ collective Pink Sky Theatre. It made its critically-acclaimed debut at The Pleasance last July – The Stage’s Paul Vale called it “an engrossing and entertaining drama” about “love, grief and healing” told through a lens of “gender identity, sexual consent and polyamory” – and now arrives for a two-night run at VAULT this weekend.
Conceived during lockdown and developed with multidisciplinary artists including acclaimed theatremaker Tabby Lamb, Rapture follows three queer characters – Tommy, Rosy and Kit, played by Bryan Moriarty, Lynne Jefferies and Pete MacHale – and their complex, co-dependent lives in contemporary East London. It is, Leydon says, “a camp and chaotic fever dream” about “counter-cultural relationship structures.”
There is an “industrial, kink-inspired set” from Verity Johnson, a score of “thumping synth pop” from musician BYFYN, and “neon-tinged” lighting from Ros Chase. And writer-director Leydon has big plans for the show. “VAULT is a huge opportunity for us to get our debut show seen by industry, producers and press, but we are most excited to build meaningful relationships with other young companies,” she says. “We would love to partner with a venue or producing house with a view to performing in Edinburgh this summer, where the show could really take its wings and fly.”
This is promotional content.
That’s it for now, and that is it for VAULT Festival, too. I hope you’ve enjoyed my coverage of it over the last eight weeks. This is the last issue of The Crush Bar for a little while, as I’m taking a bit of a break from it. I’ll be back in your inboxes in April.
One final reminder about the various ways you can support this newsletter: you can share it with anyone you think might be interested, you can become a paid subscriber using the button at the top, or you can get in touch with me about using it for promotional purposes.
That’s all. If you want to get in touch for any reason, just reply to this email or contact me via Twitter - I’m @FergusMorgan. Thanks for reading!