Each January since 2012, the dingy labyrinth of Waterloo's historic underground tunnels have been transformed into a mesmerising temporary theatrical world by artists of all shapes and sizes. Delightfully miscellaneous VAULT Festival is a smorgasbord of performance, welcoming acts across theatre, music, spoken word and comedy.
Hailed as London's answer to Edinburgh, VAULT has doubled, tripled and quadrupled in size, gaining well-deserved popularity across its six week run, so far welcoming over 250 acts to eight tailor-made spaces. Running 27 January to 6 March, things are bigger than ever this year with several new additions including a pop-up East Anglian pub, Suffolk Punch — yes there will be cider. VAULT Film Festival and an event series, VAULT Surge, are both largely free, as is midweek music on the main stage from Nest Collective. Successful features of previous years also return, with Mini VAULT for families and nightly themed party Lates. The three festival bars are open to non-ticket holders as well.
With a focus on experimentation and supporting new talent at its heart, acts don't pay for space in exchange for 30% of the box office takings. Rarely have so many artists at once been given the opportunity to take risks with new material and the results are an eclectic mix of everything from intergalactic drag troupes to a comedic Squid.
With such an array on offer experiences will likely differ hugely from show to show so here is our list of recommendations to suit every mood:
Cambridge University's first ever drag troupe with a repertoire of sketch comedy, stand-up and live music from a full jazz band.
24 February-6 March, 9.30pm
The Misfit Analysis
Cian Binchy is the autistic consultant for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. His show takes us through a world of wheelchairs and blow up dolls in a captivating exploration of an autistic mind.
2-6 March, 6pm
A comedy about two estranged young women coming to terms with the death of a friend and their own place in the world. A world where IVF, Scarlett Johansson, MDMA and Cher’s 90s comeback album all chaotically co-exist.
24 February-6 March, 6.30pm
Slow Fade to Bleak
Fresh new nightmare comedy from multi award winning sketch villains Casual Violence (who you may have heard on BBC Radio 4). A big, silly, theatrical blend of menace, monsters, mayhem and music, written by Cartoon Network's James Hamilton.
10-14 February, 9.30pm
Starring award-winning physical theatre performer Trygve Wakenhaw, in which a squid with an overactive imagination performs on an empty stage. Expect bendy limbs, a rubbery face, loopy wordplay and pretty much anything to happen.
27-31 January, 8.30pm
The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity
In a VAULT Festival debut, the award-winning company Clout Theatre present a dark and intriguing piece of absurdism centered around a post-suicide support group held in the afterlife.
17-21 February, 6.30pm
Underground looks at the phenomenon of loneliness in a crowd. Two strangers meet on a dating app after taking the same tube together for months. After an awkward date they get stuck together when the new night tube breaks down.
27-31 January, 6pm
The London 2012 Games Closing Ceremony, Closing Ceremony
Holly, bereft with the newest rise of right-wing activism and an ever widening gap between rich and poor, is trying to find a way to better the world. In order to save society, she must bring back the community spirit of the Olympics.
29 January 9.30pm
Likely to cause tears
The Eulogy of Toby Peach
Winner of the 2015 Ideastap Underbelly Award, Toby Peach tells the story of being a young man with cancer from diagnosis to remission, relapse and treatment. An honest exploration of modern science and the human body; discovery of self-mortality and celebration of life!
17-21 February, 6.15pm
The Devil Speaks True
A chilling experience which requires audience members to sit in darkness with headphones on. They are cast as Banquo from Macbeth in an adventure tracing his journey from bloody battlefield to spectral banquet table in a visceral exploration of PTSD.
17-27 February, 7.15pm
For little ones
Legendary poet Roger McGough will be drawing, talking and reading a selection of favourite and new poems full of his signature wit, wisdom and wordplay.
13 February, 1pm
Out of this World Mini Rave: Big Fish, Little Fish
Expect an enchanting, folkloric, multi-sensory extravaganza, with world class DJs, a multi-sensory dance floor, play and chill areas.
6 February, 11am
Diane Chorley's Dianentine's Ball
Join the former Essex nightclub owner and Queen of Canvey Diane Chorley, and her band The Buffet, for a sultry, red-hot night of themed music and comedy to set hearts racing and passions ablaze.
12-13 February, 8.15pm
Lucie Pohl: Cry Me a Liver
After the success of her Edinburgh Fringe 2014 smash hit Hi, Hitler, NYC comedian Lucie Pohl is back with a new soul-twerking character comedy joyride.
2-6 March, 9.30pm