The Vaults (venue)
22 February 2020 (released)
25 February 2020
The Vault Festival was First created by Heritage Arts in 2013 as a one off festival but now on their seventh year, it continues to grow, spanning eight weeks across eighteen venues. Held in the atmospheric labyrinth of tunnels beneath Waterloo station, the 2019 festival featured 428 productions, and welcomed 79,851 people through the doors. 2020 is still being counted so it’s not too late to make your way down the bright graffiti arches to inhale some drama in this grown-up’s playground. The self-funded shows are genuinely diverse so if you can’t find something of interest here well…you can’t blame the curators.
‘Dual’ is a a very personal exploration of writer and performer, Peyvand Sadeghian’s British and Iranian heritage. Her parents were granted refugee status in the UK in the seventies and Sadeghian grew up near Stratford, an East London girl speaking Farsi at home. Although a one woman show, video projections by Al Orange play more than a supporting role with filmed puppets telling a brief comic ‘history’ of Iran, some stunning video art as well as fascinating documentary footage (interviews with Iranian leaders and protests) woven into the performance.
Sadeghian is a warm and relaxed performer, with the confidence to mix the extremely silly with extremely serious. She opens the show dressed as a ‘comedy’ cleric in a beard, turban and black gown. Not afraid to take risks with a cold crowd, she has us all doing warm-up exercises before launching a game-show style passport lottery. Feeling under our chairs for a passport, the lucky few get to go on stage and the cleric basically gets to take all the useful passports away in exchange for a worthless gift. The idea came from childhood memories of her first trip to Iran aged ten when her dual citizenship wasn’t recognised and she had to take on a new Iranian name and passport to enter. After weeks of cheek squeezing from loving aunties, her perspective on the world and her own identity is forever revolutionised.
The tone is generally satirical, with digs at both British and Iranian hypocrisies and there is a deliberately patchwork affect to the short scenes and choppy visuals. Although often hitting the mark, there are elements of both visual and performance that feel too blurred to make much impact. Repeated expressive dance moves to classic pop tunes or documentary footage are enjoyable but somewhat generalised and reliance on audience participation is notoriously risky. As we watch footage of people taking to the streets in Iran, it’s a bold move to ask this laid-back crowd what would make us start a revolution (answers: Equality, The Environment, Julian Assange) but an important question none the less.