Theatre Review: The Vault Festival, London

February 20, 2014 Updated: February 20, 2014

A stone’s throw from the Old Vic, there’s been an exciting addition to the Waterloo theatre scene. The Vaults are underground tunnels at Leake St, which can be accessed from Lower Marsh Rd. The graffiti-covered tunnels lead to a surprisingly stylish and snug quarter. The tunnels were first used by Kevin Spacey for staging the youth dramas being mentored by the Old Vic. They are currently the home of The Vault Festival, with a diverse range of no less than 30 shows, all with very edgy atmospheres. The headline shows are based on famous literary works.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Hunter S. Thompson has a huge reputation as American literary genius and “honest satirist”. This plot centres around sports journalist, Raoul Duke, who is travelling by road to Las Vegas to cover a story with his attorney Dr Gonzo. The two of them spend their entire time drinking and taking uppers and downers. Why a journalist needs to have a lawyer in tow is one of the many annoying questions about this play. Another is, which part of this is supposed to be satirical? Perhaps the scenes of drug-taking had big shock-value in 1971, when the novel was published. Or maybe this production doesn’t do the book justice. The conversations between the two are fairly puerile and about as enlightening as watching two very obnoxious, drunk men in a pub all evening. This play is saved from complete tedium by the ensemble cast, who really are very good. At points, when Raoul and Gonzo start to have paranoid hallucinations about other people turning into lizards, the lizard-acting of the hotel staff is very entertaining.

The Cement Garden

Based on the novel by eclectic British author Ian McEwan, this play has a very unpromising start. It’s confusing and it takes a long time to figure out who all the characters are and how they’re related. One of them, Tom, is a little boy of about sixish years old. He’s a puppet – and it takes a while to sink in – the man walking him around isn’t another stage character, he’s the puppeteer and voice of Tom. Fifteen-year-old Jack is the central character and has two sisters and a young brother and they live in a ramshackle house. Their father has a cement business and when he dies, their lives begin to change. Without giving too much away, the siblings are all very attached to the house, and to each other. Things take a macabre turn and it becomes very tense and creepy. By the end of the play, you will genuinely be sitting at the edge of your seat. The young cast meet the challenge of their difficult roles. Well worth seeing for the creepy, atmospheric second half.