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VAULT Festival first 2020 shows on sale

The festival returns for its eighth year underneath Waterloo station

Class photo of VAULT Festival 2020
© Tom Shannon

VAULT Festival has launched tickets for its first round of 2020 shows, it was announced today.

The new writing festival, which returns for its eighth year at The Vaults underneath Waterloo station, is one of the largest curated arts festivals in the world. It will run for eight weeks from 28 January to 22 March and will feature new theatre, comedy, immersive experiences, cabaret, live performance and late-night parties.

Performances will take place in 18 spaces across Waterloo and the South Bank, with the central hub remaining at The Vaults on Leake Street. Returning venues include The Network Theatre and Vaulty Towers, with a new comedy venue announced in The Cockatiel at Hello Darling.

Every Tuesday more productions will be revealed until the full programme is released on 3 December. Key themes emerging from the line-up so far include climate change – a feature of the festival's eco-week (It's the End of the World as We Know It and How to Save a Rock) – and global stories: including a piece exploring the ongoing Hong Kong protests against China's Extradition Bill (Freedom Hi 閪); a show inspired by writer John Rwothomach's experience of nearly being kidnapped by Joseph Kony's guerrilla rebel group to become a child soldier in Uganda (Far Gone), and a production set against the backdrop of the partition of India after the country's legalisation of homosexuality in 2018 (Santi and Naz).

Championing queer and LGBTQIA+ communities is also high on the festival's agenda, with productions such as How We Love examining the friendship of lesbian student Regi and gay journalist Babs when they marry to fool the authorities in Nigeria. Also playing are a comedy spoken word show about gender, the media and not fitting any of the boxes (Too Pretty To Punch); a fake TED talk about monetising your online presence while maintaining just enough of your dignity (Wigs Snatched, Perceptions Destroyed), and a new stand-up about all things queer from The LOL Word (Coming Out Special).

The festival also sees award-winners come from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 to perform. The VAULT Festival's Pick of Pleasance Award winner Madame Ovary is about Rosa Hesmondhalgh's struggle to stay relevant as a 20-something while living with ovarian cancer. As the 2019 Summerhall Award Winner, First Time is a funny and heartfelt solo performance about HIV+ theatremaker Nathaniel Hall growing up positive in a negative world. Returning VAULT Festival favourites include the House of Burlesque (The Sex Ed Show) and Xnthony (Deluxe Access into Paradise).

Other highlights include stories involving individuals not being defined by their disability (Tinted, STAGES and Blow: A Deaf Girl's Fight); examinations of music and cultural touchstones (Coming Out of my Cage (And I've been doing just fine)); rebelling against the media's beauty standards (Beach Body Ready); a love letter to the idea of fandom (Fanboy), and surreal, absurdist productions (Asian Pirate Musical and Bin Juice).

As part of its charitable works, the VAULT Festival's Gift Horse Stage at The Horse & Stables pub will see half its profits support Child.org's Team Mum Campaign, helping to fund pregnancy services in rural Kenya that offer health information and medical support for new mothers. As part of its commitment to becoming more sustainable, the festival is partnering with Staging Change – an organisation committed to promoting environmentally sustainable practices in the theatre industry – and participating in the Green Earth Appeal's Carbon-Free Dining campaign, which gives diners the option to donate and offset the carbon footprint of their meal by planting trees in developing countries.

VAULT Festival directors and producers Mat Burt and Andy George comment: "This year's festival is bigger and bolder than ever before. There is a real sense of crisis and hunger for change from the artists we're working with. We still believe in the collective impact this festival can have on the industry, our artists, and our audiences. Over the years VAULT Festival has showcased some of the very best shows from both established and emerging artists, and at the same time has become a hotbed for brand new audience experiences that shatter the status-quo. It's vitally important to us that VAULT Festival is providing a platform for underrepresented voices and stories to be heard."

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