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Theatre, music and festival fun.
What with this being my third consecutive year at Latitude festival, I feel I’m becoming a bit of a seasoned festival-goer!
And I always look forward to this fantastic July weekender. With so much happening over three fun-packed days and nights at Latitude I know I’ll have a great time and discover loads of new things.
Latitude is very much a family event, whatever your age and inclination. Unlike some of the larger festivals, it’s remarkably easy to navigate, and everything is within easy walking distance. Whatever you’re in the mood for – whether it’s live music, yoga, theatre, comedy, great food, dancing in the faraway forest or swimming in or punting on the lake – Latitude festivale ticks pretty much everyone’s boxes and satisfies all the senses.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is deciding which of the myriad marvellous events to attend – and which ones you’ll have to miss. Here’s what I managed to catch this year.
The Pappy Show – GIRLS
The Pappy Show is a playful physical and visual company, formed in January 2013 by Kane Husbands, providing a much-needed opportunity for actors to develop in physical theatre. Using exercise and rigorous training to devise and realise the work, the ensemble remains faithful to its conviction that having space to play, experiment and fail improves them as performers and creates unique, high-energy productions.
Following on from their superb and highly successful production of BOYS comes GIRLS – a touching celebration of womanhood, spirited and candid, created through a series of heartfelt sketches and stories devised by an ensemble of women whose ages range from 17 to 70. GIRLS uses movement, dance and physical theatre techniques to bring stories of sisters, daughters, mothers, nanas, aunts, lovers and best friends to vivid life. It’s a fun, upbeat show, bursting with female energy and talent.
AMUSICAL – Comedy Theatre
The tent was heaving under the strain of the audience, many of whom had squeezed in to shelter from a downpour (think outdoor Festival in England – sometimes it rains!)
Definitely worth the squeeze to see the arrival of seasoned hosts Jade Adams and Kiri Pritchard- McLean and their house band Dave and the Quavers in a celebration of all things West End. Back by popular demand this double act have created a brilliant formula for this touring show that is seriously hilarious. These two are to cabaret what French and Saunders are to comedy, funny, talented and spontaneous with a natural banter that makes you feel like you’re all life long friends.
The show plucks random comics known on the circuit and puts them through the challenging task of performing a song from their favourite musical culminating in the winner being chosen by the audience. Just to be clear singing is not what they are known for so we are treated to a brilliant portrayal of human squirming – very amusing indeed. For me, though the real highlight of this brilliant comic cabaret were our two effortlessly hilarious comperes, Jade Adams and Kiri Pritchard- McLean. Definitely try and catch this entertaining show if it comes to your neck of the woods; you’re sure to have a seriously funny night out.
On a more serious note, Daughter by Adam Lazarus.
Lazarus wants “to show you the world how it is” and let you decide what happens next. He failed to convince me, though, and I found him an uncomfortable experience. Clearly, the intention is to challenge comfort zones, but my friend and I were underwhelmed – and tirades about hypno-births, fatherhood, lust, violence and inadequate parenting just left us cold. In more capable hands themes like these could have been funny – but we thought Adam’s ‘confessions’ were probably best left for a weekly therapy session.
The National Youth Theatre – The Astronauts Wives Club – Faraway Forest – Tree of Life
The National Youth Theatre’s ‘Astronauts’ Wives Club’ was one of three NYT productions staged at this year’s festival – clever timing, coinciding as it does with the 50th anniversary of the ’69 moon landing.
Bringing some of Britain’s most exciting new young talent to the forefront, the NYT does great justice to award-winning Ali Smith’s fast-paced comedy, stylishly directed by Bea Holland.
A giant tree in Latitude’s ‘Faraway Forest’ seemed the most unlikely stage for this witty period drama. Somehow though the serenity of the outdoors, all dappled light and leaves, created a perfectly surreal contrast to the dramatic tension escalating in front of us.
Set in 1971 against the backdrop of the Apollo 15 mission, this funny, assured production takes us backstage of the official coverage, to meet the astronauts’ wives as they await news of their husbands’ safe return.
An all-female cast had great fun playing with the hostile insecurities that seem to swarm like angry bees amongst any group of women thrust suddenly into the glare of celebrity. Apollo astronauts were American Heroes – Gods, almost – whose limelight shone also upon their wives. And whilst the women lapped up the fame and glory, trilling their All-American ‘Proud, Thrilled and Happy’ selves at the banks of cameras and microphones, they were also sometimes prone to somewhat less-than-ladylike, hilariously bitchy behaviour – not unlike some present-day footballers’ wives.
Immaculate 60’s costumes and perfect accents sealed the deal, transporting us from our idyllic wood in Suffolk to a 1970s American airbase.
It was a remarkably polished and engaging production, delivered with great vivacity. There were sharply executed performances from the young cast too, with several that deserve to go as far as Apollo 15.
Frantic Assembly – Sometimes Thinking – Theatre
Frantic Assembly is celebrating its 25th anniversary, kicking off its quarter centenary with a new show: ‘Sometimes Thinking’. This funny and touching production is a collaboration between Frantic Assembly and writer Phil Porter and was created especially for Latitude.
It’s the kind of pitch-perfect physical theatre for which Frantic Assembly is so well known. Spiralling outwards from a chance meeting, the action takes us through a series of revolving doors representing our multi-faceted lives and the interactions that shape our futures. The four characters’ lives were beautifully choreographed, intertwining and intersecting, cleverly weaving the highs and lows of lived experience – the ways we interpret what we hear depending on how we feel. Our fantasies about what could have been, daydreaming – what if, if only.
The Guilty Feminist – Theatre
If the queues were anything to go by, the theatre tent hosting the Guilty Feminist’s live podcast and comedy show was undoubtedly the place to be!
The event was hosted by extremely funny Deborah Frances-White, with special guests comedian Landon Hughes and singer Nadine Shah. And whether this performance was strictly ‘feminism’ didn’t really seem to matter, because we enjoyed some fantastic laugh-out-loud female camaraderie. Deborah’s acerbic wit coped magnificently with Landon’s highly sexualised, comedian-on-heat humour, whilst singer-songwriter Nadine seemed a little overwhelmed by it all!
It’s easy to see how with this podcast Deborah Frances-White has created a chart-topping feminist forum in a real girls’ world.
Friday evening rocked musical nostalgia, courtesy of uber-cool trip-hop 80’s icon Neneh Cherry. Cherry is still the bomb, and we loved it.
George Esra headlined the Obelisk stage. Handsome, clean-cut and much loved, this pop star had us in the palm of his hand, charming the warm summer evening with his deliciously smooth husky voice, guitar rhythms and sing-along anthems. I’ll be Riding Shotgun.
Meanwhile, over in the BBC tent Bobby Gillespie – epic front-man of indie gods Primal Scream – got his rocks off bedecked head to foot in fuchsia. Having seen them headline Glastonbury many moons ago, I’m happy to say the Scream is playing better than ever. Higher than the Sun and Movin’ On Up remain true anthems of our time.
On Saturday night Stereophonics were a popular choice- but their mediocre Britpop failed get me up and dancing. For me, the party really began when underground electronic dance legends Underworld took to the stage. Best known for their iconic track ‘Born Slippy’ – featured in 90’s cult classic, Trainspotting – this dynamic duo filled Henham Park with hands-in-the-air club classics.
By Sunday the crowds had dispersed a little and the festival had a distinctly chilled vibe as the artist called SIGRID delivered an inspired show – her stripped-back, refreshing and beautifully melodic music breathing life into the warm night. This voice effortlessly occupied the expansive Obelisk stage without any props, glitz or glamour. Young, strong and naturally beautiful, SIGRID was sensational.
Finally, headlining Latitude’s final night was American legend, Lana Del Ray. Judging by the enthusiastic crowd Ray has an enormous, devoted fan base – and although I wasn’t familiar with her music, I liked her sensual, stylized, melancholic set well enough.
Food and Drink:
At Latitude the difficult part is choosing what to eat, as there is such an incredible choice of small traders producing excellent food from around the world. This year’s favourites were:
Happy Maki Sushi was a vegetarian sushi outlet selling the most wonderful combination of taste and health wrapped in a sushi roll. The Vietnamese offered seriously delicious succulent spiced and marinated chicken served with sweet, sticky rice.
The Hothouse was an oasis of civilization amidst the Festival madness – and for one party girl, a welcome relief – with proper chairs and elegantly set tables, waiters and chilled Petit Chablis. Divine, bearing in mind that pretty much everywhere else it was Echo Falls on the grass!
We had a mouth-watering veggie thali in the Hothouse food court, situated under a canopied poly-tunnel, prettily decorated with wooden furniture, shabby chic shutters and potted plants. The food comes from several outlets close by and is very reasonably priced. If you’re ahead of the game you can book a table for a group of family or friends and have a wonderful, relaxing meal, in what looks like Latitude’s answer to Petersham Nurseries.
There are numerous bars serving the usual festival drinks. You can imbibe in Bulleit Bourbon or hang out at the Tanqueray Bar or catch the cocktail bus. We loved botanical Gin cocktails in the Faraway Forest at the Gin Tin. Cheers!
It was another fabulous year at Latitude with civilized, cool festival fun in beautiful surroundings at Henham Park.
I’ll be back.
Meanwhile, if you are thinking of going along yourself in 2020, why not check out my Top Tips for Latitude designed to help you make the most of this fabulous music and arts festival.