The Vault Festival – the nearest thing to the Edinburgh Fringe you'll find in London – is underway now at Waterloo. Each week of the Festival, we'll be picking through the programme to highlight the shows and performers we know from elsewhere. Look out too for our reviews from the Vault, published throughout the Festival.
After a first week full of exciting unknown work, quite a few of Week 2's shows have already caught our attention in Edinburgh or elsewhere. Top of my personal list is We Are Brontë(pictured), a hilariously offbeat pastiche on the canon of Gothic fiction, which combines laugh-along hijinks with some genuinely elegant imagery. My review from last year is here, and I liked it so much that I'm going back to see it again on Thursday.
Take a look too at Skin Of The Teeth, an adaptation of a Brothers Grimm story which we caught on its debut run last year in Buxton. As my colleague Steve Walker explains in his review, it sits halfway between fairytale and gritty realism – delivering a warning about how easy it is to manipulate young men with something to prove. Hip, which we saw at the Brighton Fringe in 2016, also scored 4*; this unusual show invites us to participate in a communal investigation of someone else's life, feeding off our natural curiosity about the places we live and people who preceded us there.
One of the biggest sleeper hits of last year's Edinburgh Fringe was Team Viking, a quirky one-man fantasy about an impossible promise made to a dying friend. I saw it myself on the last day of the festival – when everyone's pretty emotional anyway – and it's lodged in my memory as a gut-wrenching but big-hearted show, filled with bittersweet poignancy. Much of that was down to James Rowland, a loveable bearded teddy-bear of a performer, who's back now at the Vault with a new story called A Hundred Different Words For Love. Will the magic work a second time? I'm holding my breath.
On the topic of unexpected Edinburgh successes, none came more out of a clear blue sky than Snakes! The Musical… a bare-bones comedy musical interpretation of, yes you guessed it, Snakes On A Plane. It scored top-rated reviews pretty much across the board, including a slightly bemused 5* from us. Now the same company's produced a follow-up called Happy, which explores what happened to the fictional "creative genius" behind Snakes! once the flush of success faded away. It sounds much darker than its predecessor; watch out for a review of this one soon.
For some classic Fringe-style humour, look no further than Star Trek parody The Starship Osiris, which sees low-budget production values and a quarrelsome cast comically undermine a purported "sci-fi masterpiece". We didn't catch this one ourselves in Edinburgh, but the reviews were unanimously strong. It's a good week for improv comedy too, as Brighton-based troupe The Maydays present Happily Never After – promising off-the-cuff musical stories with a spooky Tim Burton vibe. Again, we missed this one in Edinburgh, but The Maydays have an impeccable pedigree and have earned 5* from us in previous years.
Festivals aren't about playing safe though, so here's a wildcard pick to dare you with: We Are Ian, which bills itself as a "hypercolour brown biscuit dance rave acid party" and got predictably mixed reviews in Edinburgh. And finally, if I'm allowed to recommend a show based on a single name I recognise, here's a shout-out for Major Tom. Director Joe Hufton crosses my radar regularly (here, here and here, to pick just three), and nothing he's been involved in has ever proved disappointing.