Dante’s in Furlough at The Vaults
It feels weirdly political to say, but lockdown is boring. As necessary and as vital as staying at home is, we can all be forgiven for missing the electric highs of being social. Indeed, the recent surge of Zoom theatre has been admirable, but nothing has come close to scratching that live-performance itch… until now. At The Vaults, it’s out of the frying pan and into the hellfire: their new show, Dante’s in Furlough, is the perfect way to escape, whilst remaining utterly safe. It’s brash, it’s raunchy and it’s a devil of a good time.
For the last eight months, The Vault’s underground labyrinth has been largely deserted, with only the echo of live theatre to fill its tunnels and caves. Now, however, it’s home to the nine layers of hell: dire warnings are plastered across its walls, instruments of torture are littered as far as the eye can see, and servants of the Devil are skulking in every corner. Lucifer is having a wedding, and everyone is invited. Part promenade theatre, part dining experience, Dante’s in Furlough is as schlocky and silly as its name would suggest, leaning more into being a good time than aspiring to be high art.
Loosely based off Shel Silverstein’s epic poem Billy Markham and the Devil, the evening has its participants collect “souls” through a series of diabolical challenges, all while discovering the complicated backstory that has prompted the current nuptials. To be perfectly honest, the story doesn’t matter in the slightest – director Sam Carrack merely uses the narrative as medium to tell sordid jokes and play whimsical games. Elements that are stressed as immensely important are dropped as soon as one moves into the next room or starts on the next game (without spoiling anything, the collecting of souls never really makes any sense), but that’s not at all disappointing. With such a charismatic cast and unifying energy, it’s easy to get lost in the ludicrous lore of the moment, relishing the chance to laugh at the filthy rhymes and daft activities.
Moreover, the evening feels very safe – masks are mandatory, hand sanitiser is available in abundance and guests are a socially-distant two meters apart (or “as long as the Devil’s dick,” as the characters eloquently put it). Ultimately, Dante’s in Furlough is not one for deeper themes or contemporaneous reflection; it would rather you giggle than introspect. Nevertheless, at a time where we’re all burnt out from being good, it’s so refreshing to be so wicked (…whilst also remaining safe).
Dante’s in Furlough is at The Vaults from 15th October until 30th December 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.