Some partnerships are made to last. They are equitable, mutually rewarding, complementary. French & Saunders. Posh & Becks. Katie Price & Living TV. They are a match made in Heaven, based on a joint understanding and shared values. Like Latitude and nabokov.
A director friend recently remarked that the success of nabokov was, not wholly but substantially, tied up with the success of Latitude. Latitude has had an exceptionally rewarding relationship with nabokov since the inaugural festival in 2006. I make this suggestion to Joe Murphy, current Artistic Director of nabokov, as he is preparing to take the company to Latitude for this year's
festival, the first under his directorship.
It's a very unique festival, a very unique audience and they are looking for a unique experience of theatre to take away from the weekend.
“I think that's true,” Murphy agrees. “I think nabokov has received invaluable support over the years, from Tania who programmes Latitude. Right from the beginning we've been in that theatre tent and we've brought other companies into that tent with us. We've learned a lot about that space, how it works, what the audience want, how they react and why they are there. It's a very unique festival, a very unique audience and they are looking for a unique experience of theatre to take away from the weekend.”
nabokov certainly provides them with that unique experience. Started in 2001 by George Perrin and James Grieve, nabokov is at the very cutting edge of a theatre movement that is literally sweeping away the cobwebs of a staid, theatrical tradition and bringing feral, relevant theatre to a new generation.
Artistic Director Joe Murphy
“The intent was to provide a theatre scene that was attractive to our friends, to make theatre that was about today, and about the people of today. Theatre with a pint,” grins Murphy. “George and James asked themselves, and I ask myself, ‘why aren't people of our generation excited about theatre?'; ‘why don't people in their twenties see theatre as a great night out where they can have fun, or be pushed emotionally and physically?'
James & George persuaded this pub to give them a license from midnight to 2am, and there were plays and monologues about their life going on all around them. It was visceral, a real connection with the audience.”
A six hundred seater tent with people literally baying for theatre – it's a challenge for us.
The idea of visceral theatre seems so in tune with the ethos of Latitude, that a creative partnership between the new festival and nabokov might almost be seen as inevitable. “It couldn't have been more right for us,” concedes Murphy. “It was totally in agreement with what we believed theatre should be about. In some ways, the idea that theatre is a night out and should be entertaining and philosophical and intellectual, that's what has informed some of our flagship productions, but equally, theatre is about energy and the energy at Latitude is just incredible. A six hundred seater tent with people literally baying for theatre – it's a challenge for us.”
That energy is expertly channelled by nabokov – in 2009, nabokov practically blew the roof off with Is Everyone OK? It was, literally, a theatrical tsunami, exploding through the space and the audience. . “Joel Horwood, who wrote that, absolutely understands that space,” explains Murphy. “There is very little illusion of reality that can be achieved on there, it is about how you use it, and how you use the actors. This is exceptionally honest and open theatre, and Joel understands that. That comprehension of the space is really what makes nabokov's work sing at Latitiude.”
Horwood has been associated with nabokov for many years, writing extraordinary pieces for them that have become flagship works for nabokov and seminal tracts in the type of ‘in yer face', agit-prop theatre that nabokov espouses. “Joel has been key to our work there. This year he's written a new musical for Latitude. It's about a group of twentysomethings who go to a music festival for the weekend. It's about what we lose, and when we lose it. All the contradictions that surround our generation, Joel has captured that.”
Interestingly, It's About Time, the Horwood musical, ostensibly deals with a classic story – how we grow up and when we change, but it's the nabokov twist that will make this one of the most exciting events of the festival. “It's a common theme in our work,” explains Murphy.
“Leaving University, where does growing up happen? We keep revisiting this. Particularly now, with the economic situation, the property ladder, these are really concerning, really difficult questions. There's this lost generation that we keep exploring. What Joel and Arthur Darville (who wrote the music), have done is created a piece where the music and the acting and the story all work together so fluidly and all flow out of and into each other. The music is a really key part of the dramatic structure, I really feel it's a new way of using music and song.
It's such an exciting time, the last generation of theatre practitioners really proved that all bets are off
Like all nabokov's work, It's About Time will showcase the very best of the new talent in the country. “We do have a commitment to using fresh talent,” Murphy explains, giving insight into the company style and ethos. “It's a massive part of our company – using recent graduates.
“It's such an exciting time, the last generation of theatre practitioners really proved that all bets are off. nabokov is about giving a voice to this generation.”
For those of us interested in new writing and pushing the envelope of theatre, we hope that the marriage of Latitude and nabokov continues as fruitfully. “Tania Harrison's original idea that started Latitude, of getting young people in and interested and excited – that idea is blown up to the nth degree at Latitude. It's raw, and we are thrilled to be part of that.”
And when he's not totally tied up with nabokov over the weekend, what will he be trying to see? “Definitely Tangled Feet, who we love, Florence & the Machine are playing, Dry Write is one of my favourite companies, The Bush. Latitude is about having a great time, watching some shows, seeing what's out there and who you want to work with. It's about cutting loose and having some fun.