The New Critics Programme is a unique opportunity run by VAULT Festival for five early career reviewers to develop their writing and critical voice. This year, the participants are supported by the programme’s mentors, Tim Bano and Alice Saville, to review a variety of performances at VAULT Festival 2023. The support received for the mentors includes one-to-one feedback sessions, group feedback from fellow participants, and networking opportunities to establish valuable connections within the industry. Additionally, the five participants get the opportunity to attend guest workshops from leading reviewers, bloggers and industry professionals.


The Participants

This year’s New Critic’s programme boasts a wonderfully talented cohort. They are…

Evelyn Chandler (she/they) is currently a Classics student at the University of Cambridge, and is heavily involved in the student reviewing scene. Evelyn is particularly passionate about increasing representation in theatre across a number of identities, including, but not limited to, LGBTQ+, Class and body diversity. She loves reviewing new theatre from emerging writers and creators, and is thrilled at the opportunity to see more of this at VAULT Festival.

Lyla Maeve (she/they) is a multidisciplinary creative specialising in writing, photography, social media management and content production. As a writer, Lyla’s work focuses on arts and culture, lensed through the intersections of queerness and neurodivergency. Outside of writing, Lyla is a photographer focusing mostly on London’s LGBTQIA+ nightlife and cabaret scene, being resident at supervenue The Glory since 2017.

JC Niala (she/her) is a multilingual playwright, nature writer and poet. She was educated at St Catherine’s, St Antony’s and Kellogg Colleges, University of Oxford, and is immensely passionate about bringing African Theatre to global audiences, having served as Community Manager for African Women Playwright’s Network from 2018-2019. JC has an ambition to see a play in every theatre on the British Isles.

Zheyuan Tony Yang (he/him) is a Comparative Literature student at University College London. Born and partially raised in Beijing, he has since spent a sizable chunk of his days drifting amidst various cultures and nationalities. He adores both literature and drama and has a special fervour for the medium of film: watching films, reading reviews and other forms of discourse surrounding them (such as Video Essays), and writing them himself.

Lydia Cline (she/her) is a theatre and film creative from London. Previously, she’s worked with Cardboard Citizens and Rich Mix. She enjoys exploring all artforms and currently sees herself as a playwright-spoken word poet-filmmaker-hyphenate enthusiast.

To read the New Critics Programme’s full participant bios, head over to our New Critics Programme page.

The Mentors

Forming an integral part of VAULT Festival 2023’s New Critics Programme are Tim Bano and Alice Saville. Read their bios below:

Tim Bano is joint lead critic for The Stage. He has also written for the Guardian and Time Out, and has worked as a producer on BBC Radio 4.

Alice Saville is editor of Exeunt, as well as working as a freelance arts journalist for publications including Time Out, Fest and Auditorium magazine. Her work has also been featured in The Guardian, The Evening Standard and The Independent.


Theatre Weekly

A new and particularly exciting feature of this year’s New Critic’s programme is that all participant reviews are published on the host site, Theatre Weekly. Run by reviewer Greg Stewart, Theatre Weekly strives to give theatre a new audience. There, you’ll find theatre news, theatre reviews and theatre interviews, all written from an audience point of view. VAULT Festival is delighted to have partnered with the publication to platform Evelyn, Layla, JC, Zheyuan, and Lydia’s wonderful work.

Read our participants reviews on Theatre Weekly’s site here.


After 11 years, featuring more than 3,000 bold and brilliant shows and welcoming more than 400,000 audience members, VAULT Festival has been told that we must find a new home for future festivals. This decision is a significant threat to the festival’s survival, and we need your help. We have launched a #SaveVAULT fundraising campaign with the goal to raise £150,000 by the end of 2023’s festival on 19th March. To find out more, and how you can help, visit our #SaveVAULT page.