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Ultimate Guide to VAULT Festival 2023

December 22nd, 2022 | by LWhitworth
VAULT Festival 2023

Ultimate Guide to VAULT Festival 2023

The annual VAULT Festival is one of the biggest performing arts festivals in the UK. For a period of eight exciting weeks the labyrinthine tunnels of The Vaults beneath Waterloo station are transformed into a buzzing festival experience packed with pop-up theatre venues and bars.

VAULT Festival returns for its 10th edition from 24 January to 19 March and this year there are more than 500 shows to choose from including comedy, cabaret, theatre, musicals, circus, dance, immersive theatre and late-night parties - much of it brand new. The tricky bit is just choosing what to see!


  • Tips for making the most of the festival

    VAULT is a huge festival encompassing a dozen venues underneath and around Waterloo station and more than 500 different shows. Here are some tips to help you plan your experience:

    TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT There's every kind of performing art you can think of to enjoy. Watching something different that you might not ordinarily go out to see is all part of the fun. Try a bit of everything and you'll be guaranteed that unforgettable and unpredictable festival experience that VAULT is so famous for.

    PACK A FEW SHOWS INTO AN EVENING Most shows last around one hour meaning you can pack a few different shows into one evening. Just be mindful to leave enough time between shows to get from one venue to another.

    GET A FESTIVAL PASS Buying a Festival Pass presents great value. For £49 you get tickets for four shows, four drinks and 10% off tickets to all other shows. Bargain!

    CHECK OUT THE NEWEST SHOWS VAULT X is a selection of brand new works commissioned especially by the festival and is definitely one to watch. VAULT's special programming selection is another great place to find interesting new works by emerging talents.

    EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED! Whether you are heading in for an immersive theatre experience, staying out late for one of the late night parties or sitting front row at a new stand-up show – keep an open mind and expect the unexpected.

    MIX AND MINGLE The Vaults is a sprawling underground venue and in addition to the various theatre spaces there are also loads of bars and food pop-ups. In addition to hanging out between shows, the Vaults' bars are a great place to socialise and pick up tips on what hot new shows other festival-goers have just seen.

  • Cabaret, drag and burlesque

    Always a special feature of VAULT Festival is the incredible mix of cabaret, drag and burlesque shows that form the VAULT Flair Ground programme. There’s the silly and the sexy, kink and comedy, clowning and magic, kings and queens with more than 30 shows representing the very best of the UK scene.

    Some highlights include:

    • You Shall Not Yas (24–26 Jan), HERR and Me’s hilarious cabaret take on Lord of the Rings
    • Queerdos Cabaret (29 Jan12 Feb) A theatrical verity extravaganza by RhysPieces. Come along for a night filled with drag, dance, burlesque, live music and surprises.
    • Magic Roulette (4 Feb–18 Mar), the inventive magic showcase with a twist
    • Beyond Vaulterdrome (26 Feb), Fist Club’s cult queer cabaret and pro wrestling night
    • The Bargain Basement Gameshow Cabaret  (1718 Mar) A raucous interactive mashup of all your most loved nostalgic British gameshows.

    Browse the Flair Ground programme here.

  • Musicals and gig theatre

    VAULT's eclectic musicals and gig theatre lineup is fresh, fun, thought-provoking and unlike anything else you can find on the central London stage. There are plenty of whimsical and absurdist productions to watch this year as well as entertaining shows that cover weightier topics like life and death.

    Interesting highlights to look out for include: 

    • My Lover was a Salmon in the Climate Apocalypse (28 Feb–5 Mar) by Irish eco-theatre company Bradán
    • Earth to Kurt, (28 Feb–5 Mar) a darkly absurdist musical that imagines the experience of the afterlife, through the eyes of Kurt Cobain
    • In Loving Memory, (9–12 March), a one-person musical exploration of the theatricality of funerals by Mia Morrissey
    • Public (17–18 Mar) a real-time rock/pop musical about four strangers who get stuck together in a gender-neutral public toilet

    > Browse the musicals and gig theatre programme here.

  • Theatre and storytelling

    There are dozens of fresh and original new shows debuting during the festival, as well as a brilliant selection of cult hits that debuted at the 2022 Edinburgh Festival. Many West End hit plays started out as new shows at VAULT and it's always worth keeping an eye out for debut shows if you are the kind of person who enjoys being the first to see the 'Next Big Thing'.

    Among the many many highlights, look out for:

    • Salamander (24–25 Jan), a funny, poignant and provocative look at the sex work industry in 1980s Scotland, this critically acclaimed play debuted at Edinburgh 2022.
    • Piece of Work (29 Jan–19 Mar), acclaimed storyteller and VAULT Festival regular James Rowland presents a brand-new performance at the festival that is sure to be another winner.
    • Liv Ello’s Swarm (7–10 Feb) is “a scathing appraisal of Britain's political parasites” by the always engaging “anarchist clown and theatremaker” Liv Ello.
    • Mohan, A Partition Story (Sun 26 Feb) is another superb show that sold out at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe with storyteller and theatre-maker Niall Moorjani garnering five stars from The Scotsman for their “storytelling genius”.
    • Pauline (28 Feb–5 Mar), Sophie Bentick's moving memoir in progress was a massive hit in Edinburgh in 2022 and has been described by Phoebe Waller-Bridge as “captivating”.

    Explore the VAULT Festival theatre programme here.

  • VAULT Comedy Festival

    VAULT Comedy Festival is the first chance to see the freshest material from your favourite comics and brilliant debut performances from the next generation in comedy too. Low prices, big talent and lots of laughs are guaranteed.

    Every night of the festival has something different to offer with comedy of all kinds including stand-up, improv, character comedy, sketch shows, musical comedy, parodies and so much more by celebrated acts and newcomers from across the UK.

    Award-winning names on the extensive bill to look out for include comedian-magician Joz Norris, Luisa Omielan, Tatty Macleod, Chloe Petts, Nabil Abdulrashid, Sarah Keyworth, Stuart Goldsmith, Helen Bauer, Olga Koch, Charlie George, Dan Kelly and Mat Ewins' Tech Experiments.

    Explore what's on at VAULT Comedy Festival here.

  • Lates at VAULT Festival

    Dust off your glad rags and head down to VAULT Festival on Friday and Saturday nights to join in one of their infamous late-night immersive parties.

    Disco divas, queer karaoke, twerking, swing dancing, cabaret clubbing, pole dancing, flash mobs and lots of glitter… the Lates parties are a place to really let your hair down!

    Lates highlights at VAULT Festival 2023 include:

    • VAULT Festival Birthday Bash (Fri 27 Jan). Celebrating 10 years of the festival the party starts from 10.30pm and goes deep into the night hosted by Drag sensation Rhyss Pieces.
    • Joie de Vivre (Fri 10 Feb) Bonjour, bitch! Simon David (“A hoot” - The Guardian) hosts a joyful, 5 hour cabaret spectacular featuring the best burlesque, drag, DJs and queer comedy acts on earth. Très chic!
    • House of Burlesque’s Glitter Ball (Sat 18 Feb), the iconic party once described by Time Out as "Like Moulin Rouge on Acid".  
    • Church of Pussy Liquor (Sat 4 Mar) Get sinning with a cabaret disco dance party to leave you speaking in tongues led by feminist, trash-pot party starters Pussy Liquor.
    • JuiceBox Presents: Make It Rain (Fri 10 MarAre you ready to Twerk Out with your Dollars Out?!  Award Winning Performers, International Pole Champions, A Twerk Contest, Tipping Dollars, Non-Stop DJs and more. 
    • Live & Stripping! (Fri 17 Mar) An evening of live music with internationally acclaimed Burlesque artists twisting to your favourite pop, rock and classic tunes.

    > Check out this year’s Lates parties here.

  • Dance, Physical Theatre and Circus

    VAULT Festival is a celebration of the performing arts and fans of dance, physical theatre and circus arts can look forward to some brilliant new shows taking to the stage.

    Highlights include:

    • Happy Factory (14–19 Mar), Aerialism’s new show is described as an “aerial circus extravaganza”, 
    • Mother Tree (11–12 Feb) RoguePlay Theatre’s highly physical and fantastical meditation on motherhood
    • She-Wolves (18–19 Feb), Laura Careless’s mesmerizing mix of movement, spoken word, animations, and song.

    Explore dance, physical theatre and circus shows at VAULT Festival here.

  • Immersive experiences and performance art

    Supporting artists and companies who are pushing the boundaries of performance, VAULT Festival has a riveting selection of performance art experiences and site-specific installations.

    Bold, imaginative and experimental, these immersive shows promise to be intimate, occasionally intense and utterly memorable. Perfect if you would like to add something totally different to your festival experience this year.

    Some of the more unusual highlights happening at VAULT festival's micro venue The Void include:

    • All Falls Down (24 Jan-28 Jan) An interactive, improvised, storytelling show about a group of friends trying to make contact with civilisation, and survive a potentially otherworldly threat in the wilderness, after a plane crash. 
    • The War Inside (7 Mar-12 Mar) Take a wild ride inside the body and discover a rip-roaring story of bowel disease diagnosis. 
  • Family shows

    VAULT Festival isn’t just for grown-ups! There's also a range of shows perfect to keep the kids and their adults happy. Look out for:

    • CABABABARAVE (28 Jan–11 Mar) An exciting new event for parents and their babies. A show-stopping cabaret interspersed with captivating baby sensory moments.. ending in a rave!
    • Science Adventures: The Power Pickle (28 Jan–12 Feb) Professor McGuffin's ground-breaking Sub-Nuclear Optical Transmitter (SNOT) has a catastrophic malfunction and needs a new power source - What a pickle!
    • Blue Badge Bunch (4 Mar–5 Mar) A clever, engagingly interactive and hilarious taskmaster gameshow where each game represents a different disability.
    • Shelf: The Kids’ Show (4 Mar-Sun 5 Mar) Join Shelf for sketches and silliness in this high energy kids’ show that's fun for all the family.