Latitude Festival 2013 – Day One

As Latitude enters its eighth successful year in the evocative surroundings of Suffolk’s Henham Park, Paul Couch takes a look at some of the first day’s theatre events

Latitude Day 1 Round-Up

If there’s one thing you can look forward to at the annual Latitude festival, it’s a surprise around every corner. 2013’s outing, which started this weekend at Henham Park, Suffolk, is no exception. Some of the surprises are pleasant, while some perhaps disappointing.

One sparkling gem is North’s The Man Who Thought The Moon Would Fall Out of the Sky, a stylised comi-drama with music based on a 19th Century scrapbook. While the title may be unwieldy, the piece itself is slick and impressive, moving along at breakneck pace with some complex role-swapping and multiple parts played by the seven-strong company.

North, the associate company of Northern Stage, comprises recent graduates and emerging artists. You wouldn’t know it, however, each performance is flawless and a credit to an energetic and creative devising process that the company so clearly enjoys.

North - The Man Who Thought The Moon Would Fall Out of The Sky
North – The Man Who Thought The Moon Would Fall Out of The Sky

Company member Stan Hodgson told WhatsOnStage: “The fact that a festival like Latitude is championing young and emerging companies like us is an amazing chance for North and all we want to achieve. Festival theatre means so much to companies like us because we get to expose our work to those wanting taking a chance on something new as well as the opportunity to perform alongside the industry’s biggest names.”

Hodgson continued: “We get to emerge ourselves in the artistic community, enjoy the widest range of music and art in the country and spread the word of a thriving North East theatrical scene. The theatre arena is the biggest venue we’ve ever played, and stepping out onto that stage is one of our proudest moments to date. We’ve loved every minute of it.”

Expect great things from North, surely one of the most vibrant and engaging entries into the theatre circuit in years.

Conversely, the well-established Manchester Royal Exchange’s lacklustre rehearsed reading Chris Thorpe’s There Has Possibly Been An Incident resulted in many of the audience members voting with their feet and departing Latitude’s theatre tent. While Incident may have seemed worthy in Thorpe’s mind, it seems little thought has been given to the audience’s boredom threshold as three actors – very clearly still on a turgid script – struggle to relate an interwoven series of tales on the theme of how our skewed ideology can sometimes make the wrong choices seem like the right ones; among them 9/11, the massacre perpetrated in Norway by Anders Breivik, and the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

There might well be a germ of an idea to make the audience think but, if there is, it is lost under the performers’ monotone and uninspiring delivery.

There’s an old adage about people – commonly known as “bean-counters” – who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Daniel Bye enthralled his audience with a “performance lecture” on the topic of capitalism; however, The Price of Everything is no dry oration, as cuts to Arts funding, the NHS and social care all come under vitriolic and microscopic scrutiny. The audience is even treated to a glass of milk (a nostalgic interlude for those of us old enough to remember such generosity at primary school).

Daniel Bye - The Price of Everything
Daniel Bye – The Price of Everything

Bye pulls no punches in his one-man-show and makes no apologies for uncompromising language that expresses perfectly his passion for the subject of altruism. The tales he relates may be mostly works of fiction, but does that matter? If his fables sow the seed of an idea in the heads of the audience, that life doesn’t always have to be about being on the make, then Bye’s hour-long discourse serves a valuable purpose. Fascinating stuff, but not for the lactose-intolerant.

– Paul Couch