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.
Three shows at the Vault this week have already crossed our radar at the Edinburgh Fringe… and each, in its own way, offers something unique. Much of the attention is sure to settle on Ventoux, which re-creates a famous duel at the Tour de France of 2000 between a brashly arrogant Lance Armstrong and the flawed popular favourite, Marco Pantani. It's a visually stylish production, with projected film of the titular mountain and inventive use of racing bikes to set the scene. It'll appeal to cycling fans but, as our review from Edinburgh argues, it has a wider relevance too.
It's always exciting when you're rewarded for stepping outside your comfort zone, and that happened to me in Edinburgh last year with Scenes From An Urban Gothic (pictured). It's wordless physical theatre – an intimidating prospect for many – but it's thoroughly unpretentious and eminently accessible, telling a cartoonish and often humorous tale. Following a man who leaves a rural idyll to make his way in the big city, it spins off in fanciful directions but has a recognisable message at its core. Read more in my review from 2016.
If Urban Gothic is highly polished, my third pick – Droll – is intentionally rough. Drolls were short comic sketches, sometimes adapted from well-known classic plays, performed by travelling players at a time in history when regular theatre was banned. Owl Schreame Theatre recreate the chaotic atmosphere of a performance in a pub, using raucous humour intermingled with song and dance. It won't be for everyone – and our Edinburgh review reflected both positives and negatives – but there's no doubt it's highly entertaining.
Face to Face, a festival-within-a-festival dedicated to solo work, is well worth a look this week too; but don't hang around, because everything within the strand is on for one night only. Wednesday's show, Carlotta de Galleon, is potentially an interesting choice: our review in Edinburgh praised its advocacy of romantic fiction, often perceived as a trashy genre. But the highlight for me is Friday's play, And The Rope Still Tugging Her Feet, a powerful retelling of a shocking real-life story from 1980's rural Ireland. Its nuanced-but-uncompromising approach earned a slew of top-rated reviews last year, including this 5* from me for its run at the Brighton Fringe.
And finally, a couple of new shows from companies worth watching. Prom Kween is billed as a work in progress, but it comes from a team with impeccable pedigree – including Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho and last year's Edinburgh smash-hit, How To Win Against History. Like those past successes, Prom Kween plays with both politics and gender, satirising the American high-school genre to tell the story of the first-ever boy to win the eponymous title of Prom Queen.
Last but not least, having had a roaringly good time at Jurassic Parks last week, I can't wait for Superbolt Theatre's new offering Mars Actually. Details are sparse, but it's billed as a "kaleidoscopic vision" of life on the red planet; if it follows the pattern set by Jurassic, we can expect intelligent, often-physical comedy blended with moments of sudden poignancy. Look out for a review of that one later in the week.