The VAULT Festival – the nearest thing to the Edinburgh Fringe you'll find in London – is well 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.
Top of the list this week is You, a deceptively short name for a truly monumental play. Two actors tell the story of a baby's adoption, exploring a multitude of viewpoints: the birth mother, the absent dad, the adoptive parents (so desperate for a child), and of course the boy himself. At the Brighton Fringe this earned a plethora of 5* reviews, including this one from me; it has to rate in my top half-dozen Fringe plays of all time, and I'm thrilled to see it revived with the same cast for this London run. It's the power of the performances which make the play, but what sticks in the mind is the daring staging – performed on a narrow strip of floor, with lines delivered looking straight into the audience's eyes.
Equally reliable – though very different – Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho opens this week for a two-week run. There can't be many people left who haven't heard of this one, and it's been a recurring fixture in Edinburgh since we reviewed it back in 2014, but there's a tenuous extra reason to see it this year: the 30th anniversary of Section 28, the notoriously homophobic law passed at the height of the Thatcher government. The flamboyant, sequinned drag cabaret casts Maggie as an improbable (and accidental) gay icon. As my colleague Jane wrote, it achieves the difficult balance of being both political and fun.
For one night only – Friday 16 February – you can also catch another of our Edinburgh favourites, The MMORPG Show: No Holds Bard. If you don't understand the title, or don't know why it's a pun, you're probably not in the target audience for this one; if you *do* get it, then you need to know that the audience are brought in on an improvised quest guided by a hooded dungeon master and a giant glowing D20. My colleague Lizzie's review in Edinburgh praised the humour and storytelling ability of the host, and the hint of comic absurdism he encouraged in the audience suggestions.
Also catching my eye this week: Void, an intriguing-sounding two-part performance performed one-on-one inside freight containers; Storyteller: London, which introduces a welcome spoken-word strand to the Vault's theatre-heavy programme; and Caravan Theatre, a rotating programme of 20-minute plays performed to an intimate audience.
Finally, I'm not sure what to make of A Serious Play About World War II. The company's previous pastiche, The Starship Osiris, was a hit last year – but it's a lot easier to build hilarity around a Star Trek parody than it is around "the memoirs of a Holocaust survivor". The joke's really about the pretentiousness of theatre, but they'll be walking a dangerous tightrope all the same. I'll wait till the Brighton Fringe to catch this one myself, but see it at the Vault and make up your own mind.