Time seems to become irrelevant on a festival site, days merge into one and it takes a bit of effort to remember what the day is. Day 4 of Latitude must mean it is Sunday and the last chance to experience the delights of the 2011 programme.
It all starts so well, blue skies, light wind and, in contrast to Saturday, dry!
So far this weekend we’ve had sunburn, mud, rain and wind so it seems oddly apt to begin the day at the Outdoor Theatre to find yourself getting snowed on. Gentle flakes of (fake) snow blowing off the trees following the Winters Ball the previous night make for a surreal way to start a Sunday morning.
The Gate Theatre’s staging of Sophocles’ tragic play Electra seems an odd choice for a Sunday morning, with its themes of family violence, murder and madness, but Nick Payne’s adaption makes for compulsive viewing. In a festival where audiences come and go, it’s testament to the gripping performances that first thing on a Sunday morning sees a couple of hundred people sitting transfixed on the damp ground in the open air watching a 2000-year-old play.
Company of Angels also presented a take on the classics in the open air theatre. In an attempt to make Shakespeare accessible for younger audiences; I, Peaseblossom looks at the Bard’s work through one of A Midsummer Nights Dream minor characters. Anything that encourages younger audiences into theatre should be applauded but sadly this production looks unlikely to convert many youngsters to the joys of the Bard. A good Shakespearian production will engage audiences of all ages but this production seems to dumb down the work to such a level that it loses all charm and story.
In the Comedy arena, Mark Watson brought his bitingly accurate observations on life to a capacity crowd while over in the Literary tent there’s enough debate to make anyone eschew the Sunday supplements’.
After yesterday’s ‘rain stops play’ at the Waterfront stage, Sadler’s Wells had more success in dodging the shows and presented an eclectic range of work to a capacity and enthusiastic audiences on both sides of the lake. Zoo Nation thrilled with extracts of their new show Some Like It Hip Hop. Tommi Kitti changed the musical mood from Hip Hop to Blues with a stunning performance of A Trip. Originally conceived as a solo piece, it has been reworked as a duet and is a premier for Latitude. For many the highlight of the Sadler’s Wells programme is the appearance of the Fela Company. The hit musical is about to transfer to Sadler’s Wells following a smash hit sell out at the National Theatre and despite the dampness in the air the sounds of Afrobeat drew a massive crowd to the Waterfront.
Musically, as throughout the festival, it’s an eclectic mix. OMD, appearing in the Word Arena, drew a capacity crowd and, as the strains of choral music wafted over the park, a large crowd was drawn to the Obelisk Arena for a breathtaking performance from Scala and Kolacny Brothers – a fusion of rock, pop and choral work.
After all the excitement and choice over the weekend it was down to Suede to close the festival and despite the changeable weather over the weekend festival goers were determined to go out with a bang rather than a damp fizzle.
So Latitude is now in its sixth year and has now firmly established itself on the festival map. Overall impressions this year? There’s a great atmosphere at the festival and the mix of music, art, theatre, comedy, poetry and literature again attracts a wide audience. Despite the weather, festival goers were determined to enjoy themselves and enjoy themselves they did. Is there room for improvement? Sure. Infrastructure is always going to be a problem in the rural setting of Henham Park; problems with toilets and water supplies continued and, given the weekend’s torrential downpours, the car parks soon turned into a quagmire that surprisingly seemed to catch staff by surprise. Advising departing guests that car parks are not their responsibility isn’t the best way of leaving positive memories of the festival.
Despite these minor niggles it’s clear that in traditional British Blitz spirit it will take more than rain to dampen the spirits of Latitude and it continues to live up to its promise to be ‘more than a music festival’.
If you haven’t ever been to a festival, Latitude could be the perfect taster for you. 2011 was once again a sell-out, though, so for 2012 you’d better get in quick!
— Glen Pearce — Follow Glen’s Latitude Tweets on Twitter @glenpearce1
Glen’s website blog: www.glenstheatreblog.com
Glen Pearce is based in Suffolk and his reviews focus on the vibrant arts scene in East Anglia but also cover frequent trips to London and beyond. On average he sees around 150 shows per year, from small scale fringe shows to major West End productions.
Glen trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and has worked as a stage manager, lighting designer, box office, front of house, in theatre management and arts marketing. He has reviewed for the regional newspapers in East Anglia.
In addition to his own blog he also contributes to OneSuffolk, blogs for Arts Professional Magazine, contribute to UpTheWestEnd.com and is also the resident theatre critic for BBC Radio Suffolk’s Drive Time show.