Five shows to see during week seven of VAULT Festival.
A solo show about nostalgia, a one-woman play about a pirate, and lots more...
Hello, and welcome to The Crush Bar, a weekly newsletter about theatre written by me, Fergus Morgan.
Until mid-March, this newsletter is focusing on VAULT Festival. Every Monday, I am sending out issues featuring five shows worth seeing at VAULT that week - this is the seventh, and penultimate, of those - and on Fridays, I am sending out your regular, in-depth interviews, plenty of which will focus on artists performing at VAULT, too.
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. If you are interested in promo opportunities around VAULT, then click here.
That’s all for now. More from me at the bottom, but first: five shows to see at VAULT Festival this week!
Fanboy - Worklight Theatre
I have shouted about Joe Sellman-Leava’s work in this newsletter before. As Worklight Theatre, he makes hard-hitting but big-hearted solo shows about important topics. 2015’s Labels won one of The Scotsman’s Fringe First Awards in Edinburgh, and its 2017 follow-up, Monster, was similarly acclaimed.
This show, Fanboy, was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe last August, and now runs for seven performances at VAULT Festival this week. Written and performed by Sellman-Leava, with direction and design from Yaz Al-Shaater and dramaturgy from Lauren Mooney, it is an examination of our relationship with pop culture, fandom and nostalgia, incorporating drama, storytelling and video.
In her four-star review, The Scotsman’s Joyce McMillan called it a “complex and finally very moving show about how it feels to be in your thirties.” You can get tickets for the VAULT Festival run below.
The Freshwater Five - Deadman Theatre
Have you heard the story of The Freshwater Five? In 2011, five fishermen on the Isle of Wight were sentenced to a total of 104 years in imprison for attempting to import £53 million of cocaine into the country. They have always claimed to be innocent. You can read about the fascinating case in this Guardian long-read from 2020, or listen to this award-winning Guardian podcast about it from 2021.
Now, their story is being told on stage. With the consent and support of the fishermen’s families, The Freshwater Five sees Deadman Theatre use storytelling, verbatim techniques, inventive stagecraft and song to conduct a theatrical investigation into the case, and into the wider history of smuggling on the South Coast.
Written by Liam Patrick Harrison and directed by Becks Granger, the show runs for seven performances at VAULT Festival this week. On Wednesday, one of the five fishermen, Jamie Green, will speak publicly about the case for the first time in a post-show Q&A, together with Emily Bolton, founder of the charity Appeal and the men’s long-time legal champion. You can get tickets via the button below.
The Net Kill - Incognito Theatre
Angus Castle-Doughty, Charlie Macvicar, George John, Alex Maxwell and Daniel Whitlam founded Incognito Theatre in 2014 to stage socially-conscious shows in a physical style, and were subsequently showered with praise for their inventive adaptations of The Government Inspector, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and All Quiet On The Western Front, and for original work Tobacco Road.
Now, the company returns to VAULT Festival with its latest show, The Net Kill. A raucous and riotous comedy set at the end of the nineteenth century, it tells the heart-warming story of a five-man badminton team who set out to vanquish a mysterious beast that has been terrorising the English countryside, exploring themes of friendship, brotherhood, and male mental health along the way.
Produced by Hannah Wisher and directed by Catherine Cranfield, The Net Kill debuted at Brighton Fringe in 2020, transferred to the Finsbury Park’s Park Theatre in May 2022, and now arrives at VAULT Festival for a run of seven performances this week. You can get tickets via the button below.
A Game Not Lost - Ryder Productions
Ching Shih was a powerful female pirate who terrorised ships in the South China Sea in the early nineteenth-century. At the peak of her buccaneering career, as leader of the Guangdong Pirate Confederation, she commanded a fleet over 400 pirate junks and tens of thousands of sailors.
Ryder Productions’ new one-woman show A Game Not Lost tells the tale of Ching Shih’s life, from prostitute to pirate queen. It sees Hong Kong-born, Gaulier-trained, London-based actor Isabella Leung play Ching Shih, and unfold her extraordinary story over a game of Mahjong.
Produced by Amber Ryder, written by Dorothy Kay, and directed by Zhui Ning Chang, the show runs at VAULT Festival for four performances this week, starting tomorrow. You can get tickets via the button below.
Kites - LipZinc Theatre
LipZinc Theatre is an Irish theatre company formed of writer, actor and artistic director Tzarini Meyler and actor and producer Ana Canals. The duo met while studying at University College Dublin, and went on to stage a series of successful shows in Dublin, in Galway, at the Edinburgh Fringe, and elsewhere, earning a reputation for bringing vibrant, vital, and visually exciting stories to the stage.
Kites is the LipZinc Theatre’s latest show. A two-hander written by Meyler and performed by Meyler and Canals, it is set in mid-twentieth-century County Cork, and follows the friendship between two girls – Kitty, desperate to escape her rural Irish life, and Angel, fleeing the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War – from their early teens to their early thirties, through the seismic shifts that occurred in Ireland at the time. It was partly inspired, Meyler says, by the story of her own great-grandmother Kathleen.
The show has already run to acclaim in County Cork and Dublin and at both the Edinburgh and Camden Fringes last year, and now arrives at VAULT Festival for seven shows this week. “We can’t wait to perform the show at VAULT,” continues Meyler. “We are so excited to meet new people, make new connections, and potentially open up pathways to take the show on a longer tour.”
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That’s it for now. I’ll be back in your inboxes on Friday with an interview with Mahlon Prince, whose show Patient Vultures premieres at VAULT Festival next week, and then again on Monday with the last of these weekly picks. Then I’ll be taking a short break!
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. Thanks for reading. If you want to get in touch for any reason, just reply to this email or contact me via Twitter - I’m @FergusMorgan. See you on Friday!