Vault Festival – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Vault Festival

Wandering down a tunnel covered with graffiti, barbed wire and fences blocking off one end of the former through road, even in the early hours of the evening isn’t usually a good idea. On this occasion, however, I would strongly urge you to make an exception.

This particular tunnel leads from Lower Marsh street through, under Waterloo station and out onto York Road, a humming thoroughfare through central London and more importantly, aside from its graffiti covered heritage, is currently the access point to the superb Vault Festival venue. An innocuous and rather non-descript, graffiti-camouflaged door is pulled open to uncover two entrances to the Studio and the Vault. On this occasion, inevitably, there was a queue formed outside the entrance, but still, the purpose was not entirely clear.

Having collected our tickets and been ushered in, the strange nature of the venue soon became clear. A long, low lit entrance hall led down to an entrance with the words ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ scrawled above them and a plethora of neon lights leading the way. Now, having seen the film, but, I must confess, not read the book, I really only had the visual the film provided for reference in my head, but so far it was all very conducive to conjuring up images of psychotropic hallucinations. Fitting for any Hunter S. Thompson material.

Once we had found a perch on the benches provided, the show started soon after, grabbing you more or less from the very outset by the lapels and not letting go. The Heritage Arts Company took us through a little over two hours of wonderfully ludicrous, drug addled antics from the two characters ‘Raoul Duke’ (played by Ed Hughes) and his attourney Dr. Gonzo (played by Rob Crouch). Somehow managing to keep us enthralled with little more than some fragmented and disturbed dialogue, a convertible car set and narration provided by the remarkable John Chancer, the play is a real joy ride of extremes of emotion and behaviour, perhaps demonstrating the worst excesses of drug use, but also the brilliance that it inspired during the sixties and early seventies.

Leaving the entire audience as bemused, amused, confused and all round baffled by what had gone on, the cast left us with very little in the way of a send off. Much like the film, I certainly felt I had got a good insight into the warped mind of the books infamous author and utterly entertained at the same time.

 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is running into the start of March and tickets can be found here. Details of the rest of the Vault Festival events can be found here. More information can also be found here on Facebook.

By Peter Churchill