Vault Festival SE1: bridging theatre’s gender gap

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Don’t miss this season of 300 acts at Waterloo’s brilliant performance space


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Writers Gap: Unpicking the gender-gap, one production at a time. Photo: PR
London’s all-singing, all-dancing, all-laughing-out-loud answer to Edinburgh Fringe is currently in full-flow. With 300 acts streaming in and out of the capital’s cavernous underground venue over the next five weeks (til 18th March) – this year’s programme has been intentionally devised to bridge the gender gap in the theatrical world.

While this imbalance is gradually being ironed out, a report by Stage Directors UK last year found that some Arts Council England-funded venues still have notably high proportions of male directors on their stages. Take the Young Vic for example, which had 83% male directors, while all productions from both the Hull Truck and Oldham Coliseum’s theatres were directed by men. To ebb the gloom, Theatre Royal Stratford East has 75% female-led productions while the Unicorn is smooth-sailing with a 50/50 gendered split.

Stats in the bag, with a setlist curated by Writers Gap – a new progression scheme for talented emerging female writers – the Vault-fest is ensuring that 53% of the shows programmed are written or directed by women.

To pick a handful of the corkers, Paper. Scissors. Stone. (3-4th Mar) takes a sharp-edged peek into gender conditioning, while the highly-praised Glitter Punch (28th Feb-4th Mar) deals with student/teacher relationship boundaries. Meanwhile, the Vagina Dialogues (14-18th Feb) – move aside Eve Ensler – offer an unapologetic and uncensored insight into patriarchy, and throughout the fest, they’ll be an immersive circus spectacular courtesy of an all-female cast, Becoming Shade.

Plus a notably topical examination of trauma and response to #metoo, Void (14th Feb-18th Mar) combines stories written by Annie Jenkins and Joe Kerridge, offering insights into male and female experiences. Born from the current dialogues about sexual harassment, abuses of power and gender, the stories are told in fully responsive, immersive environments in two freight containers.

Don’t miss Becoming Shade’s all female circus. Photo: Maximilian Webster/Fire

HeForShe Arts Week

While we’ve got your feminist-taste-buds tingling, this globally recognised festival launches on International Women’s Day (8th Mar). Vault will be working alongside the United Nations Women campaign for gender equality and the empowerment of women, programming a series of events and round tables, with an aim to raise £10,000 for this vital initiative.

Kicking-off with a panel discussion “What Actually Helps” (9th Mar), it’ll be followed by a night of live music, DJ sets (from the likes of BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Etta Bond), spoken word and talks. The week’s activities will continue with a special programme from Small Things Theatre who present a series of stand ups, intimate musical sets and pint sized sections of poetry, offering up their unique insight into how we shift culture, raise awareness and create real change for girls and women all over the world.

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The Vault Festival, Leake St, Lambeth, London SE1. Tickets and more info here.

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