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The top talents to watch from Vault Festival 2018

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With 300 shows, Vault Festival was a sprawling, multifaceted and gloriously eclectic event. The Stage sent Fergus Morgan to cover the event for its entire two-month run. Here, he picks five talents to watch among the writers, directors and companies that staged work this year…

1. Lucy Jane Atkinson

An emerging director of new writing, Atkinson had three shows at this year’s festival. In both James Huntrods’ Cause and Tatty Hennessy’s A Hundred Words for Snow, her direction was simple, but acutely sensitive to the shifting energy of the writing. Evident but never overbearing.

A Hundred Words for Snow review at the Vaults, London – ‘humour and humanity’

Her direction on Cause, which was set on a protest ship in the Arctic, elegantly underscored the action with a creaking, cracking sound design and an icy set that literally broke up as the play progressed. In A Hundred Words for Snow, she allowed Hennessy’s wonderfully warm writing to speak for itself, before supplying an emotional blizzard at the end.

2. Pronk!

Director David Aula was behind Vault’s 2014 headliner The Cement Garden, and he and fellow director Simon Evans had a hit last year with The Vanishing Man. He returned with Evans for the bewilderingly fun Vanishing Mankind again this year, but did his best work with new creative partnership Pronk! and its latest show The Rain God.

The Rain God review at Vaults, London – ‘moments of genuine joy’

Pronk! consists of Aula, Jack Monaghan, Robert Moutrey and Ruby Bentall. Their work focuses on science, storytelling and stage magic, and they’ve used all three to tell the quirky story of American rainmaker Charles Hatfield. It was a thrilling chemistry experiment of a show.

3. Hermetic Arts

Carrie Marx and Chris Lince’s Hermetic Arts provided the highlight of the festival’s horror offerings. Unburied began as a podcast recording, with Marx sat on stage with a projector, slowly investigating the disappearance of a 1970s folk-horror TV series. Then it became something else entirely. Hermetic Arts’ first show, a satanic satire on Dungeons and Dragons, was a mini-hit at last year’s Vault and at October’s London Horror Festival. The fiendishly clever and genuinely unsettling Unburied deserves a wider audience.

Unburied review at Vaults, London – ‘fantastically creepy and intelligently crafted’

4. Erica Murray

Irish playwright Erica Murray made her London debut with The Cat’s Mother at Vault, a scouring, subversive comedy about two sisters debating what to do with their extremely senile mother – care for her or kill her? It was rough around the edges, but there was a delectable, dark edge to its humour, reminiscent of David Ireland, or even Martin McDonagh. Hopefully it will get a future life, and hopefully we’ll hear more from Murray soon.

The Cat’s Mother review at Vaults, London – ‘wickedly funny’

5. Lipsink

Rosy Banham and Daniella Isaacs’ Lipsink Theatre had a fringe hit last year with Isaacs’ solo-show takedown of the ‘wellness’ industry: Hear Me Raw. This festival, they took a different tack, diving into the turbulent history of Uber with Joseph Charlton’s Brilliant Jerks. Charlton’s three-handed play was authoritative and exhilarating, and Banham’s production was equally good. Brilliantly lit, swift and seductive, it was one of the highlights of the festival. Lipsink is a company going places.

Brilliant Jerks review at Vaults, London – ‘authoritative and exhilarating’

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