The 2010 Latitude Festival kicks off at Henham Park in Southwold today, with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Opera House, Bush, Lyric Hammermith and Paines Plough among the companies premiering work there this year. And Whatsonstage.com will also be there, providing regular updates from the festival frontline on our special event blog.

Also appearing this year is the cast of American love-rock musical, Hair, who will be performing a 30-minute excerpt from the show which transferred direct from Broadway to London's Gielgud Theatre in April. And Hair is just one of several musicals to debut at Latitude this year, alongside Showstopper! The improvised Musical in the Cabaret Arena and Les Enfants Terribles' Vaudevillains in The Empire Music Hall.

Established in 2006 and marketed from the off as "more than just a music festival", Latitude now rivals Edinburgh and Manchester for the calibre of its theatre programme, which operates alongside the event's music, comedy, poetry and film arenas. The festival showcases both new and established companies, often with bespoke productions created especially for the weekend.

Among the highlights this year is the first appearance at the festival by the Royal Opera House, which presents Pleasure’s Progress by director-choreographer Will Tuckett, to be performed deep in the festival’s Faraway Forest woods.

Also direct from Covent Garden come The Opera Group and London Sinfonietta with George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill, a contemporary classical take on the tale of the Pied Piper. And soul singer Omar makes his debut with Lovesong, a one man play for piano written and directed for English Touring Theatre by Che Walker (whose musical Been So Long was a hit at last year's festival).

Meanwhile, the RSC are returning to the theatre arena with a new piece by playwright Carl Grose aiming to rival the company’s hugely popular zombie show at Latitude 08.

The London Fringe will be well represented by the  Bush Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith, the former with its latest show, The Great British Country Fete, the latter bringing a group of its actors, dancers and visual artists for live storytelling across the festival’s three day programme. Soho Theatre is also on the bill with Mark Ravenhill’s horror short, The Experiment, first seen at Southwark Playhouse last year.