Vault Festival 2014 is underway, underground, under Waterloo station. The bar is hopping, and this subterranean arts extravaganza has started off with a bong, or maybe, an acid hit — a surreal, psychedelic road trip. One of the headlining productions, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, adapted from Hunter S Thompson’s novel by director Lou Stein, follows journalist Raoul Duke (Hunter S Thompson) and Dr Gonzo on their drug-fuelled quest for the American Dream.
It’s certainly a long, strange trip.
The story is partially narrated by Hunter S Thompson looking back on his adventures, played by John Chancer, while Thompson, under the alias of Raoul Duke (Ed Hughes) enacts the events as they unfold. He is accompanied by his attorney, acted with great gusto and psychosis by Rob Crouch. Reptilian bar tenders and hoteliers, a hippy hitchhiker, casino showgirls and truck-stop taco shack waitresses also make their appearances, to great effect. Footage of the Vietnam war, Nixon and vintage ‘drug information reel’ show in the background, along with animated figures from Steadman’s illustrations. This is an American Dream morphed into a dystopian nightmare viewed by way of LSD, amphetamines and the occasional dose of ether, which captures the essence, electricity and verve of Thompson’s novel.
The sets are renderings of cartoonist Ralph Steadman’s original illustrations from Thompson’s novel, some of which are on display at the venue. The combination of lighting and projections enhances the vision of a broken-down, dysfunctional America viewed through drug-induced hallucinatatory haze.
This is a trip that you will not want to miss. Hang on and enjoy the ride.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas plays at Vault Festival until 8 March. Tickets are £25, including £1.50 Festival charge, and can be booked via the website. Londonist saw this production courtesy of a complimentary ticket. Be certain to check out the other events and performances taking place at Vault Festival.