Latitude Festival 2009

Latitude is a rare festival – one where literature and the arts aren’t tacked on as
an afterthought to the big music acts, but are an integral part of what the
festival is all about. Where else will you find the RSC rubbing shoulders with
the Aisle 16 poetry collective, or Sadler’s Wells performing Swan Lake across
the water from Nick Cave?

The beautiful thing about Latitude is wandering into an arena on a whim
and discovering an unexpected gem. With a new artist hitting the poetry
stage every 20 minutes, you can spend an hour or so sitting with a beer,
knowing that you’ll hear someone unique that you’ll want to read more of. Particular
highlights this year were sets by Tim Turnbull and Rhian Edwards, while
an hour-long set by the great Simon Simon ArmitageArmitage drew a crowd so big it could
have filled the Uncut Arena. I’m sure I’m not the only writer who is
inspired to see so many people who dedicate themselves to their art not
for fame or recognition, but because they love what they do and want to
share it.

Friday and Sunday mornings kicked off with the Early Edition in the
Comedy Arena, as Marcus Brigstocke, Andre Vincent and Carrie Quinlan kept us up
to date with goings on in the real world, and Mitch Benn tried to put it all to
music. There was plenty of stand-up but all that was eclipsed by the sketch
comedy in the Literary and Cabaret tents – Pappy’s Fun Club, The Penny Dreadfuls
and Watson & Oliver packed in more laughs per minute than should really be
humanly possible. I’d like to give special thanks to PFC for throwing oatmeal
in my hair. Why yes, it was raining outside! Anyone bemoaning the state of
sketch comedy after recent poor TV shows from Horne & Corden and Al Murray
should rest easy, the next generation is ready to emerge.

The Theatre Arena was not only the comfiest place to sit out of the
rain, but also the best place to see something wholly unexpected. Dryfight encouraged
the audience to take sides in a series of short plays that each ended in an
elaborately choreographed fight – some funny, some tragic, all rather chilling,
as the desire to cheer your chosen character on to punch someone’s lights out
took part in an internal battle with the need to yell “Leave it, he’s not
worth it!”. For the second year in a row the RSC spooked us all out with a
ghostly midnight play, but sadly no zombies this time, possibly for the best if
they’re method actors. The biggest surprise, though, was My Name Is Sue by Dafydd James and Ben Lewis, a hilarious musical trip through one woman’s life, from
childhood traumas to visions of an apocalyptic future where six-headed dogs
guard the Millennium Stadium and bus trips can be a descent into hell. Definitely
worth checking out if you’re heading for the Edinburgh Festival this year.


About Rebecca J Payne

Cambridge-based author of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and occasional Shakespeare obsessive.
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One Response to Latitude Festival 2009

  1. Naomi Clark says:

    Man, I would have loved to see Nick Cave juxtaposed with Swan Lake. Next year…

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