Vault Festival, consisting of eight weeks of London-based arts and entertainment shows, had opened again last week and this year I’ve decided to go all out. I’ve got a spreadsheet of the seventeen shows I’ve narrowed it down to seeing after scouring the programme, and a membership card to get discounts on the food and drink I’ll undoubtedly be consuming throughout the next few months. So far, I have seen two shows and tried the ‘Spanish’ dish from the EU-inspired menu – deliciously sweet yet spicy chorizo. I’d recommend both the food and the shows: Isa Bonachera’s The Great Emptiness; a one-woman comedy about her love of space, and Snapper Theatre’s Thomas; a play centered around two cousins and ideas of masculinity and neurodivergence. As the festival kicks off, I’m going to focus here on five of my top feminist picks that I’m looking forward to seeing.
After seeing Maria Ferguson’s last show, Fat Girls Don’t Dance, I’m excited to see how this poet, playwright and actress moves from the more autobiographical work into fictionalised monologue. Although there may be some overlaps with Ferguson, also from Essex, it will be interesting to see how she explores the concept of an “Essex Girl” in the age of TOWIE, which arguably does little to challenge the stereotype outlined in the copy from the Collins English Dictionary as ‘a young working-class woman from the Essex area, typically considered as being unintelligent, materialistic, devoid of taste and sexually promiscuous.’ Essentially, this term has been seen as an acceptable form of both sexist and classic rhetoric, and it will be inevitably refreshing to see how Ferguson tackles the subject.
As someone who is nearing 30, looking at a life that is very far removed from naive youthful expectations, I’m excited to see Lydia Rynne’s Hear Me Howl, which challenges the idea of “settling down”. Fusing comedy, spoken word, and drumming, this show follows the character of Jess as she breaks away from convention and joins a post-punk band. Growing older is a feminist issue, and societal expectations are slowly shifting as this current generations of 20/30-somethings are starting families later (or not at all), whether by choice or circumstance. I expect this story to be uplifting and empowering.
You may remember that in 2015, it was revealed that a London nightclub called DSTRKT was refusing entry to black women with darker skin. Queens of Sheba from Nouveau Riché, uses this basis to explore everyday misogynoir – a blend of sexism and racism. Written by Jessica L. Hagan, four black women will share their stories on stage using song, movement and spoken word with the aim to uplift and shed light on such experiences.
Written and performed by Roann McCloskey, My Father The Tantric Masseur explores the taboos of sexuality in a way that is both sensitive and humorous. A British Algerian Queer woman, McCloskey uses autobiography to explore this topic, admitting to have masturbated from the age of seven, as a product of potentially contradictory messages about sex. The title itself seems funny, yet this evocation of a sexually-open father, is contrasted with the ideas of shame and sin that seem to come from her mother. As society becomes more open about sex, it seems this show will reveal the ways in which we still have certain issues that remain relatively unspoken.
I happened to meet writer Lizzie Milton from Snatchback’s 10 at the festival’s main bar, who gave me an insight into the premise. It aims to give voice to stories untold, highlighting ten different women throughout history, celebrating their achievements despite the obstacles they struggled against, including intersections with other oppressions they have faced. In the list, there is only one name I recognise (Mary Seacole) and so I look forward to learning about each of these women through the five performers on stage.
With over 400 shows involving over 2000 artists, the festival runs in underground venues across Waterloo spanning various genres, so you are sure to find something suit you and is well worth a visit, whether book back to back shows, or you just see one show and soak up the atmosphere.
Vault Festival runs from now until 17th March.
Featured image by Jwslubbock (CC)
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