Vault Festival, Artshub

This article originally appeared on Artshub UK

Serena Chalker

Dust off those high-waisted trousers, hipster glasses and flared jumpsuits, Vault Festival offer an immersive theatre experience.
Vault Festival

The nights are long, the weather is grey, the wind is cold, and Londoners are heading underground. But rather than hibernating from the miserable weather, there is something rather more exciting drawing people in to the depths of the city’s hidden caverns.

The Vault Festival returns on January 28, offering an exciting array of performances from theatre to dance to circus, all set within the hidden labyrinth of tunnels below Waterloo. It is here that Festival headliner Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, adapted as a play and directed by Lou Stein, will be residing for the duration of the festival, promising to be an acid-trip delight where the audience are immersed in the action. Fear and Loathing, written by Hunter S. Thompson,is both a classic road-trip narrative and a mind-altering storm of gonzo journalism that has become a staple of American literature.

Current journalistic trends favour placing their reporters right in the centre of the action, often becoming part of the story themselves. Fear and Loathing, the forerunner of gonzo journalism,took this idea to its extreme and its brilliant insights into 60s culture have secured its place in the hearts of generations. Thompson valued creativity and experimentation, and, besides being a friend of the director’s for thirty years, it is fair to say that he would have likely enjoyed this atmospheric venue as the perfect counter-cultural backdrop to Stein’s adaptation.

This production also includes new imagery by Ralph Steadman, who contributed illustrations to Thompson’s original book. These images have not only inspired the actors during the rehearsal process, but allow the Las Vegas characters come to life, and give the play a rich fabric of meaning.

Seasoned theatre-goers may be familiar with Stein’s West End production of the play, which went on to a sell-out season, and ran to critical acclaim. This production, perfectly set against the dark, cavernous backdrop, will take the production to a new level. Immersive theatre has been around throughout the twentieth century, from 60s and 70s groups La Mama and The Living Theatre, to contemporaries such as DreamThinkSpeak and Punchdrunk, and is ever-growing in popularity. Audience engagement is at the heart of this production. The audience is encouraged to dress in costume as they will be right in the centre of the action.

‘Audience engagement with theatre is always important to me, and this is an opportunity for the audience to take part by indulging in the wonderful style and fashion of the time’, says Stein. By dressing the part, the audience will be swept in to the 70s atmosphere, enjoying the excess of the trip, rather than being impartial observers. Time, then, to dust off those mothballed high-waisted trousers, hipster glasses and flared jumpsuits… Promising to be a delightful assault on the senses, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas will be a trip you’ll never forget.

Vault Festival

Produced by the Heritage Arts Company
28 January – 8 March.