Production photos for Uncle Vanya starring Toby Jones and Richard Armitage (Harold Pinter Theatre)
Review: You Stupid Darkness! Southwark Playhouse - funny, haunting, moving and strangely uplifting

Interview: The Vault Festival's head of lates, Laura Drake Chambers on finding the unique and edgy late shows

The Vault Festival kicks off next week promising to be bigger and better than ever. I asked Laura Drake Chambers, head of lates, how she goes about putting together the programme and advice for first-timers.

V20 Class Image (Credit Tom Shannon)
Image by Tom Shannon

With 500+ shows at the festival, where do you start when putting together the programme?

Working to find the right companies is one of the most enjoyable parts of the process.

London is full of incredible creativity, it’s saturated with artists and communities expressing themselves through late-night work, it’s definitely not a chore going out and finding great work to programme.

Making sure to look at the balance between companies that are hungry to expand into larger venue spaces, or in a place that would benefit from the support that VAULT can offer and also partner well with the ethos of VAULT Festival to bring in new and exciting audiences into our festival is key.

What is the process and what is the most difficult part?

I approach a lot of the Lates companies personally, to gauge how right they are for the scale of the event spaces we can offer.

Once I’ve approached everyone on my radar for that year, it’s then just piecing it together like a fabulous jigsaw puzzle!

I think the most challenging part can be fitting the shows together in the right order. I try to see the festival programme as an arc of connected events and focus on giving each company the right spot within it.

What are you looking for when deciding if a show is suitable?

A few simple things really – with the larger events in The Underbar on Saturdays, I need to be confident that the night will sell, so artists aren’t exposed to unnecessary risk and taking the show space is a positive move.

VAULT Festival 2019 (5)
I look for work that will bring something unique to the festival, something radical and spectacular, always with a bit of an edge. I also need work to align with both my personal ethos of inclusivity, variety and diversity and the core values of the festival.

One of the first places I begin looking are other late-night fringe venues, and which events and collectives are making an impact, raising awareness or approaching event-making in unique ways.

For example, our Valentine’s special in Week 4, the ‘Self-Love Sanctuary’ (Saturday 15th Feb 22:30) goes from grrl-power fuelled collective Pussy Liquor aimed at evoking the right to reclaim our bodies through immersive interactions, patriarchy smashing cabaret performances, sex-positive workshops and an all-night disco!

What is different about the programme and festival this year?

It is much, much bigger. We have 603 shows programmed so far across our three programmes, and we’re working with more creative collaborations and partnerships than ever.

The programme is bigger, the VAULT team is bigger, it’s a very exciting time for us and I think that will reflect in the personality of this year’s programme.

VAULT Festival 2019 (3)

Any surprises?

Only the good kind, but you’ll have to get a ticket to find out.

With so much choice, what advice would you give to those who are trying to decide what to see?

Go on a Friday or a Saturday. Pick something that piques your interest early on in the evening, plan to stay in the building all night.

Play pot luck at the box office and take a chance on something you’d never normally choose to see.

Take flyers and actually read them.

Chat to other audience members in the bar as you go and learn about the shows they’ve just seen. End up at the Lates from 10:30pm, I guarantee you’ll have the best night.

The Vault Festival runs from 28 January for 8 weeks, visit the website for details of shows and venues.

Do swing back to Rev Stan's Theatre blog or Facebook page for some reviews and leave your tips for hot tickets.

You might also like to read:

Production photos: Toby Jones, Richard Armitage and the Uncle Vanya cast

Review: The Co-op, White Bear Theatre - fun if sometimes clunky comedy (until 25 Jan).

From the archive: My thoughts on Tom Stoppard's last new play (The Hard Problem)