You couldn’t ask for a venue with more atmosphere than the rumbling warren of brick that lurks beneath Waterloo railway station. It feels underground even before you add the sprawling salmagundi of avant garde theatre, comedy, music and circus that makes up the frankly delirious VAULT festival.
Now in its third year, VAULT has swollen from the original “small but fiery” thing it was in 2012 to something of a baby behemoth. This year there will be at least 10 different performances every day across its six week run from 28 January to 8 March. Now we aren’t great at maths, but that sounds like a helluva lot of shows (there are 30,000 tickets available). Deliberately un-themed and nebulous, the best way to experience this festival may just be to roll the dice and try something you know nothing about. But for those who want a few breadcrumbs, here are some week-by-week highlights to help you navigate the maze.
Wild Worlds: Dark Side
After last year’s sell-out show The Artful Badger returns with a collection of strange acts exploring our animal instincts.
28 January - 15 February, 8.10pm
There’s A Monster in the Lake
Spoken Mirror bring this show starring Cressida Bonas to the tunnels, telling the tale of Kazek, who goes missing from rehab.
28 January - 1 February, 6.30pm
Vanity Bites Back
Helen Duff’s subversive clown cookery show explores the search for self- worth through cheesecake.
28 January - 1 February, 6.15pm
Move to Stand pull apart Greek myth with this comic story of love and eating your way out of grief.
28 January - 15 February, 7.45pm
This one aims to turn the space into "the world’s greatest imaginary jazz club" with Kansas Smitty’s House Band, an ensemble of innovative musicians playing acoustic dance music.
31 January, 10.30pm
This show was big at the Edinburgh Fringe, a heady mix of comedy, theatre, improv and psychotherapy that comes right at the audience without much mercy.
2-22 February, 9.30pm
The charmingly weird Gruff Theatre offer up a whirling game of dress up and dress down in which etiquette is everything and anyone who doesn't get it just-so will find themselves on the end of some very odd looks indeed. Inventive, fun and freaky.
The debut play from Vinay Patel, looking at the euphoria of the 2012 Olympics from the paranoid point of view of London in 2005.
4-22 February, 7.45pm
These nights aim to create a magical world for under 11s that includes glitter balls, storytelling and interactive light displays. Highlights include family rave Magic Under London; Pirates of the Carabina’s free circus show FLOWN; interactive theatre with Albee Vector the Sound Collector; horror lite in Decomposed! My Brother’s Turning into a Zombie; and Comedy Club 4 Kids.
7, 8 and 21, 22 February and 7,8 March
The Nest Collective
Set up by Mercury Prize nominated folk singer Sam Lee, this group are bringing new music and breakthrough acoustic acts to the vaults.
Free every Wednesday and Sunday, 9.30pm
Yve Blake brings a costumed, musical celebration of confession inspired by over 1,000 stories from strangers in 154 different cities sent to her interactive website.
11 February - 1 March
RIUCHI’s ‘The Tale of The Ancient Lights’
Martial arts combine with dance, juggling and magic in a poetic and high-tech solo performance.
11-15 February, 9.40pm
The Love and Lightning Ball
Instead of having an overpriced dinner this Valentine's Day, join The Artful Badger on "an amorous adventure of exploding emotions and magnetic attractions."
13, 14 February
Dani Frankenstein: Shut Up and Dance
Feminist pop sensation Dani Frankenstein's first solo musical project is a combination of high energy tunes and slow sexy ballads that challenge preconceptions of female identity.
18 - 22 February
Two days of "glorious, divine carnival fun", with the likes of The Kansas Smitty’s House and Shotgun Carousel.
Forget Steven Spielberg, this is man versus monster in an epic adventure from Superbolt Theatre. Expect "spine-tingling theatrics and megalithic mayhem."
18 February - 8 March, 8.30pm
An original story that looks at the topical issue of internet privacy: the plot revolves around a girl out for revenge ten years after her teenage boyfriend posted her nude photo on-line.
25 February - 1 March
Tickets for VAULT are available from the website.