The VAULT Festival – the nearest thing to the Edinburgh Fringe you'll find in London – is getting underway 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 VAULT, appearing throughout the Festival.
Last year's VAULT was anchored by a hedonistic, immersive retelling of The Great Gatsby; this time round, the same crew are back with a Peter-Pan-themed musical called Neverland. It sounds very different… so what should we expect? I really don't know. But the promo video hints at a piratical theme, and plenty of hands-on engagement with the audience. If you want to check it out for real, it's on for the whole eight weeks of the festival.
In contrast, you have just one chance to catch Joe Sellman-Leava's Fringe-First winning show Labels (pictured), but you really shouldn't miss it if you haven't seen it before. The timing might be inconvenient – 2:45pm on Sunday – but it's worth interrupting your weekend for: an autobiographical piece clearly built from deep introspection, it's tellingly personal without becoming self-indulgent. Sitting somewhere between a play and a humorous lecture, it tackles complex questions of identity in multicultural Britain, using Sellman-Leava's own melting-pot background to raise eye-opening topics I'd never even considered before.
Sellman-Laeva's main show at VAULT, meanwhile, is Monster – a newish play which takes on the equally-challenging themes of male violence. It's an intricately-constructed work, which mashes up Shakespearean texts, TV interviews by the disgraced boxer Mike Tyson, and a haunting column written by actor Patrick Stewart (who witnessed and experienced domestic abuse when he was a child). To be honest, I wasn't so keen on this one when I reviewed it in Edinburgh, but pretty much everyone else disagreed. See it yourself and make up your own mind.
If that all sounds too heavy for a fun night out, let me point you towards Police Cops In Space. The award-winning original Police Cops was a fast-paced, high-energy pastiche of a 1970's crime series; this sequel offers more of the same, but in the future. Woooh. Occasionally poignant but mostly just silly, it's one to enjoy with friends and a beer or two; it packed out a good-sized venue at the Edinburgh Fringe last year and I'm sure it'll go down a storm here as well.
Wrecked is another show I was lucky enough to catch in Edinburgh. A short, one-woman play, it has a distinctive twist, as the actor and (tiny) audience all clamber inside the wreckage of a "crashed" car. The performance is compelling, and little technical tricks elevate the experience, adding the interest and variety which the cramped staging might otherwise have taken away. I think my colleague Michael hit the nail on the head with his Edinburgh review, and it'll be a hot ticket when word gets out – so I'd book now despite the fact it has a lengthy eight-week run.
There's also a show in a moving car, performed by two actors in the driver's and passenger's seats. Rubber claims to be "street theatre like never before", which is nonsense – there have been shows in moving vehicles for decades. But it's certainly an opportunity you don't get very often, and this review from the show's Edinburgh run suggests it's both rewarding and intense. It's sold out for this week and for many dates after that, so book early if you want to see it before it closes on 18 March.
Also catching my eye this week: Silk Road, which impeccably captures the zeitgeist with its tale of the dark web and the rise of Bitcoin; Revolution, a show crossed with a board game which I'm sure to catch at some point during its eight-week run; and Becoming Shades, a modern circus show I failed to get a ticket for last year, which is also back for the full two months.