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The Vaults

  • Art
  • Waterloo

Time Out says

Delve underground and you'll find experimental and immersive work in a party atmosphere

Waterloo's Leake Street is a dank hide out for aerosol-wielding graffiti artists, who cover the walls of this old railway passage with layer on layer of technicoloured designs. Make it through the painty fug and you'll discover The Vaults, a surprisingly huge arts venue hidden behind an unassuming door.

The Vaults is at its busiest each February and March, when hundreds of new shows take over this ramshackle collection of theatre spaces and bars, under the umbrella of Vault Festival. You'll find autobiographical solo shows, interactive adventures and installations, new plays, themed parties and hordes of tipsy theatregoers settling into the venue's many whimsically decorated bar spaces, which come alive with late night weekend events.

But there are plenty of reasons to venture to The Vaults at warmer times of year. It's become the go-to venue for ambitious immersive shows, most notably the venue's big 2015 hit 'Alice's Adventures Underground'. And it also holds dining theatre experiences a-plenty, jazz nights, gigs, and nights out which make the most of the venue's brick-walled, cavernous atmosphere.

The Vaults came into life in 2013 with its first event, a full album play of a Daft Punk album. It took over the space formerly known as The Old Vic Tunnels, which from 2009-2013 held an impressive array of pop-up theatre shows under the auspices of the theatre down the road. Today, it's got one permanent 160-seater auditorium, The Vault Theatre, plus a host more temporary galleries and spaces. 


Leake St
View Website
Tube: Waterloo
Prices vary
Opening hours:
Tue-Sat 11am-7pm
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What’s on

Vault Festival

  • Experimental

It’s been too long since London got to experience the underground delights of Vault Festival: after being shut down in full flow in March 2020, it was unable to open in 2021, and its 2022 edition was the highest-profile London casualty of the omicron surge, cancelled a few weeks before it was due to happen. Fingers crossed it’ll get over the line this time, as what a festival entirely staged in small subterranean rooms lacks in social distancing, it makes up for in sheer volume of exciting work. Over eight weeks, Vault 2023 will stage over 500 theatre and comedy shows, from experimental plays about upskirting in South Korea and the exploitation of blindness by the entertainment industry, to work-in-progress pieces from big-name standups like Luisa Omielan and Jordan Brookes. There’s even a one-day wrestling festival within the festival, because why not? For full listings, head to Vault’s official website. 

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