tue 26/01/2021

Coming Up Later at the Old Vic Tunnels | reviews, news & interviews

Coming Up Later at the Old Vic Tunnels

Coming Up Later at the Old Vic Tunnels

It’s not often that a venue’s stage door is easier to find than its main entrance, but The Old Vic Tunnels is one such location. For those behind Coming Up Later, however, this is all part of the fun of a three-evening underground festival featuring a rather wonderfully haphazard range of performances. The event is the product of The Old Vic’s outreach programme, Old Vic New Voices, and the funding and artistic crowd-sourcing network IdeasTap.com. Such collaboration resulted in an opportunity few emergent creative directors could ignore: a production team, a budget to play with and three expansive tunnels for those who could imagine how best to use them.

The space is a little overwhelming - accessed via one of south London’s best-loved graffiti spots on Leake Street, it is home to casual taggers and off-duty rickshaws – as is its previous staging history: both the UK premiere of Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop and a performance from the New York Dolls have occurred in the two years its been known as The Old Vic Tunnels. However, its potential has been seized upon by Coming Up Later and the six competition-winning emergent directors, choreographers and comedians who are putting on a variety of entertainment, each open for one show only.

Over three nights, Coming Up Later will be bringing contemporary dance, one-to-one comedy installations, lectures on vintage pornography from renowned burlesque acts (pictured below, Ophelia Blitz), caberet and a nightclub-inspired chain-play to the cavernous space underneath Waterloo Bridge, rounded off, of course, with a 1950s hula beach party.

WEB_COMING_UP_LATER_010_ArtWankTwo days before the opening night, the stage in the middle tunnel, which will play host to the 30-strong cast of young director Natalie Ibu’s play ‘Av it, is still being rigged up with nightclub lights. Producer Sara Doctors points out that the strip bar lighting will be replaced with neon; the faded glamour of velour furniture in the Bunker Bar – the location of the caberet performances over the weekend – hint at the debauchery to come. Already in place is a "Kissing Practice" booth, containing a mannequin’s head inside two curtains, and a suspiciously small cupboard with "Seven Minutes in Heaven" written elaborately over the top. These are part of the comedy installations of The Lonely Hearts Comedy Club, the interactive opening performance on Thursday night.

Friday evening sees Suba Das and company Custom/Practice present a pop theatre reworking of Les liaisons dangereuses. Doctors informs me it is Madonna-inspired. Material Girl fan or otherwise, Custom/Practice is supported by the RSC and was founded by Das last year following a stint at the National as the theatre’s youngest ever resident director.

For its closing night, Coming Up Later transforms The Old Vic Tunnels into a nightclub, reminiscent of those under London Bridge, for ‘Av it. Ibu’s play has been a collaborative effort from a massive tally of 50 writers, players and DJs and invites the audience to experience a VIP cocktail-fuelled entrance before witnessing the final hour of a nightclub on stage.

Coming Up Later prides itself on its ephemeral existence – its performances really are on for one night only, and there have been no full rehearsals of the entire event. Project director Shaka Busnie, however, intends it to be legendary enough to act as a springboard for these young talents’ future creations. Tickets are free, but, as with all the best clubs, if your name’s not down on the guestlist, you’re not coming in. Signing up at comingup@ideastap.com is strongly recommended.

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