Friday, our first full day of festival-goodness was a chance to really get stuck in. I must admit, our Tweets (or Bleats as Latitude requests they be called due to the multi-coloured sheep who wander the festival) were pretty sporadic. Picking up a wireless signal in the middle of a Suffolk field has its problems at the best of times. Picking up 3G was like striking gold.
So after the normal morning trivialities: queuing for the showers, charging phones and grabbing a spot of breakfast, we both headed down to the Theatre Tent for Daniel Kitson.
IT'S ALWAYS RIGHT NOW UNTIL IT'S LATER
I have heard a lot about Daniel Kitson. A few people in my class at drama school thought he was the bees knees. So for me, catching Dan's work-in-progress, “It's Always Right Now Until It's Later”, was an absolute must. Find out what all the fuss was about, y'know? For Dan, it was a chance to try out new material. Himself, a desk, a microphone and his laptop. He was basically reading what he had written of this play so far, to see where the laughs are, how it feels aloud, that sort of thing. I am a big fan of this sort of work. A lot of theatres are doing it right now. ‘Scratch Nights' they call them. even the National have recently made those plans about building rehearsal rooms with glass walls for the audience to see work-in-the-making. It's a very exciting type of work.
But even for those without a fondness for this kind of ‘scratch' performance, Dan's show went down a storm. The premise is of two strangers, a man and a woman, who meet in passing for one tiny moment of both their lives. A trivial moment. A bus stop scenario; you know the type of thing. But while the woman's entire life is told chronologically from birth to death, the mans story is told backwards from death to birth. The moment they meet is just a fragment of a bigger story. I'm not doing too well at explaining this am I? I'll hand over to Kitson himself who will put it in his own words.
“I wanted to put something amazing where you wouldn't expect to find it. To take the first moments of the morning and fill them with something silly and sad and wonderful. Something to make you laugh and cry and wonder before the world even knows you're awake. This is a show about every single one of us, the past in our pockets, the future in our hearts and us, ourselves, very much stuck, trapped forever, in the tiny eternal moment between the two”.
It was a tragic moment. I cried (I'm like that)
I couldn't have said it better myself… No, seriously, I couldn't. But Dan's exploration of what it means to be stuck in the present moment is both beautiful and tragic.
At one point, Dan told the story of how the woman had danced as a child in the hot summer rain in her garden, full of joy and childhood innocence. Years later, pushing a pram with her newborn baby through the heavy rain on the way to the doctor's she was overwhelmed with the feeling of having lost herself. The young, innocent version of herself had died. It was a tragic moment. I cried (I'm like that). But then the next moment he told the story of her first boyfriend dancing in just his socks on the end of her bed and I was in hysterics. What can I say? Everyone loves a bit of antithesis.
The Lyric Hammersmith have played Latitude before. Last year, they performed acracking version of a new simon Stephen's play. This year, they have teamed up with Filter, whose Three Sisters was a hit on the London stage last year. Filter is a company whose trademark is the innovative use of sound. Amplified, synthesised voices, projected animation, and solid, strong performances. Their production of The Dream in the Theatre Tent was a testament to their wildly imaginative storytelling.
Anyone can re-imagine Shakespeare. Not everyone is successful. But this was truly a triumph. Oberon, the king of the faeries, was a power-hungry geek wearing a spandex superhero outfit pretending to be something he clearly is not. Puck was the stage-manager, cynical and downbeat. Bottom was played by Mark Benton, plucked out of the audience to replace a brief but comic cameo by Lilly Allen's dad. You know, Keith.
Filter's use of sound is quite marvelous. Perfect for a music festival.
It was a hugely inventive piece. Sure, it was hit and miss in places, but there were some definite stand-out performances and, as I say, Filter's use of sound is quite marvelous. Perfect for a music festival. In fact, of everything we have seen, those performances that have catered specifically to the Latitude audience tend to go down a lot better here.
IT'S ABOUT TIME
We escaped the theatre tent for a while, hitting the main stage for some fine musical performance from Empire of the Sun and Florence and the Machine. Florence was astonishing – what a voice!
Back to the Theatre tent at 11pm for Nabokov Theatre's new musical It's About Time written by Latitude veteran Joel Horwood. This was, for both of us, the most eagerly-anticipated show at this years festival. Last year, we were both lucky enough to catch Crunch, When Cheryl Was Brassic and Is Everyone Okay? all of which were performed by Nabokov, the latter of which was also by Horwood.
The show itself tells the story of five ex-bandmates who meet up at a music festival (clearly Latitude). They have all changed in various ways. Rifts have grown over time. They haven't seen one another since school. The main protagonist is getting married in a week and this is his last weekend of freedom. He is reluctant at first, but soon joins in with the band as they take magic mushrooms and spend a debauched night dancing, climbing trees, dressing up as cows and generally making mischief.
No other theatre company at the festival have (so far) provided such an all round masterpiece.
Hungover the next morning, the protagonist and would-be husband wakes up and learns of the chaos that ensued the previous evening. Turns out, he got married in an inflatable church to his ex-girlfriend. Whoops!
It's a stonker of a show. The music (courtesy of Arthur Darvill) and Horwood's script spark with wit, humour and relevance. No other theatre company at the festival have (so far) provided such an all round masterpiece. Yeah, some of the songs got lost in the dodgy sound levels, but this kind of storytelling is what makes the Theatre Tent such a great place to be.
Oh, and Alex is keen to stress how much he enjoyed this particular show aswell, so I'll hand you over:
“Genius. Honestly I think Joel Horwood is a genius. A writer that fully understands what the audience at a festival are looking for. Some theatre companies miss the mark, this didn't. A musical collaboration, blending a witty, fast paced script with an (at times) beautiful selection of songs. The partnership of musical director and composer, Arthur Darvill and Horwood is a superb combo, delivering what I thought was another huge success for Nabokov Theatre. I just hope it gets another life outside of Latitude so others can witness ‘Its About Time' in all it's glory. Don't get me wrong, I have always been an admirer of Nabokov so you can accuse me of being biased. So do, if you want.”