The genre-defying Latitude Festival – which was awarded Special Achievement in Regional Theatre at last year’s TMA Awards (See News, 26 Oct 2008) – has announced the line-up for its 2009 weekender event, which takes place from 16 to 19 July at Henham Park Estate near Southwold in Suffolk.

Now in its fourth year, the festival will for the first time play host to a musical in its specially designed theatre arena. Che Walker’s Been So Long will transfer to Latitude following its world premiere at London’s Young Vic (See News, 8 Jan 2009), where it runs from 11 June to 4 July.

Been So Long started life as a straight play, premiering at the Royal Court in 1998. The new musical version has a score by Arthur Darvill. Yvonne and Simone are cruising for action. Raymond stole Gil’s girl and now Gil wants to slice him up, while Barney is just after a quiet life. All five collide in a seedy London bar in this “neon-soaked new musical comedy”.

The Bush Theatre will repeat its success with last year’s Latitude co-commission of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover with a new piece inspired by audience submissions and written by a team of up-and-coming playwrights. Sudden Loss of Dignity invites the public to submit their most “cringe-worthy” embarrassing moments to www.suddenlossofdignity.com to be turned into dramatic fodder.

The Royal Shakespeare Company – which last year caused a stir with a zombie piece written and directed by Anthony Neilson – returns this summer with a troupe of strolling minstrels reciting sonnets and floating a 30-metre portrait of the Bard made from dandelions, daisies and buttercups.

Other highlights in the theatre arena will include: Paines Plough’s new collaborative piece Traces, choreographed by Georgina Lamb; Joel Horwood’s “stand-up tragedy” Is Everyone Okay? for nabokov; the National Theatre’s production of Lucinda Coxon’s latest comedy, The Eternal Not; and the Pleasance Theatre’s “Picks” preview of three shows from its August programme at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Speaking to Whatsonstage.com at yesterday's launch event, Latitude arts programmer Tanya Harrison said: "We're really expanding our genre range this year, incorporating everything from musical to puppet theatre ... we've got some truly amazing pieces lined up. I love the way our visiting companies embrace the festival environment - Latitude is very much defined by its artists, and our audiences really have an appetite for anything new and experimental. Long may that continue."

Amongst the other theatres, companies and artists confirmed to appear at the 2009 Latitude Festival are: Sadler’s Wells, the Lyric Hammersmith, Hoipolloi, Ben Moor, 1927, Third Eye, FUEL, DryWrite, OSIP Theatre, The Rebel Cell, the National Student Drama Festival, Shlomo & the Vocal Orchestra (the world’s only beatbox choir), Sharpwire, Faulty Optic and The Irrepressibles.

In addition to theatre, Latitude brings together an eclectic mix of entertainers from the worlds of music, film, comedy, cabaret, dance, poetry, literature and art. For its theatre work, Latitude was recognised by the TMA awards for “its ability to attract a broad range of age groups - in rather impressive numbers - to come and see performances ranging from hard-hitting plays, to dancing on a lake, to an RSC zombie thriller”.

- by Terri Paddock & Theo Bosanquet