A hilarious show that forces its audience to not only participate but to help create the story

By: Feb. 22, 2023


"I think I stuck to the script!" - The Fable of the Greatest Fight

Audience members enter, greeted by Olaf Falafel, an illustrator, sitting behind an easel and Katie Pritchard, a musician, accompanying the pre-show music with egg shakers and appearing to be deep in conversation with Ben Van der Velde, the star of the show.

Once seated, the show begins with Van der Velde taking centre stage, calling us "a fine collection of human beings" before immediately roasting members of the audience. He claimed that the room was full of "heavy testosterone and violent oestrogen" as he called out two men that looked like Russian hitmen, the "Goth cabaret," and the women in the front row who looked like senior school pupils. But as Van der Veljode is jokingly insulting the audience members, he is beginning to weave together a story in front of our eyes.

The Huffington Post claims that Van der Velde is a "master of audience interaction" and I cannot help but agree with them. When taking moments to pause from laughing at the quick and witty jokes, I found myself in awe of how easily Van der Velde is able to take what appeared to be random characters and put them together, creating a story about an underground fight ring that was being run by "The Last Remaining Briton," Richard.

There were hilarious callbacks to audience members throughout the show and I was quite impressed by Van der Velde being able to remember every single name, even handling drunken hecklers with aplomb.

One of my favourite parts of the VAULT Festival is seeing how performers interact with the loud trains above them. Some choose to ignore the noise, others quickly acknowledge it and move on, and some, like Van der Velde, take it in stride with religious-themed bits like "We've angered the Old Gods," "Suddenly, Oldin Oldfather rises from the Northern Sea," and, after a beautifully timed train leaving the station when Van der Velde told an audience member he was a man of God, "That's the Big Man going, 'One of mine!'"

Finally, at the end of the show, Olaf's masterpiece is revealed - cartoons of the different characters that made up our little fable of "Judo Dave's Fight Night." Audience members like the "Fifth Wave Feminist Transformer" (To quote Van der Velde, "Capitalise the T, reviewer!") Vincent, Richard, Charles, and Ben were all drawn on the page along with fun catchphrases and nicknames. Why there was an illustrator to accompany Van der Velde's storytelling is somewhat unclear, but there are some very funny moments provided by Olaf throughout the show.

There were some great effects provided by Katie Pritchard including heavenly music when one of the audience members' names was revealed to be Angel, some 8-bit themes, the same sound effect for anyone receiving an injury, and, of course, the iconic cowbell. I wish that we had been able to hear more of Pritchard's music and sound effects, but I look forward to hearing it in her own VAULT show, Disco Ball, soon!

Ultimately, Ben van der Velde: Fablemaker is an well constructed, immersive show that forces its audience to not only participate but to help create the story. Van de Velde, accompanied by Pritchard and Falafel, is able to bring together each person's individual story, put his own twist on it, and tie each of them together to make a uniquely funny fable.

Ben Van der Velde: Fablemaker runs at the VAULT Festival on 22 February at 21:10 in the Crypt at The Vaults.

Photo Credit: VAULT Festival

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