Now in its 12th year, Latitude Festival returned to Henham Park over the weekend to present its 2017 offerings to an eager, now larger than ever, crowd. Reviewer KRIS HALLETT offers his overview.
Latitude 2017 from a theatrical standpoint felt slightly short changed then in previous years. Less big shows, fewer performances and fewer works to see.
Yet by and large the work was strong, two crackers in Hot Brown Honey and Dickie Beau, plenty of other work that was solid, but there was too much emphasis on gig theatre for this critic’s palette and very little buzz worthy shows to get the crowds lining up all the way down to the main festival site.
With the shutting down of the Little House and reformatting the Speakeasy and Cabaret spaces into de-facto theatres, it was obviously a conscious decision but one hopes that theatre is back higher on the agenda next year.
It did allow for more exploration than in other years. Hours whittled away sitting around a fire letting the world go by in Solas, people watching with a beer and watching bands you’ve never heard of playing acoustic sets on the Lakeside stage. It is easy to see why audiences may attend the four day weekend and not even be aware of theatre playing on-site, as one of my critical colleagues eavesdropped in: “People don’t go to Latitude to see theatre.” Chastening for those of us who spend the majority of our lives writing, talking and thinking about the art form. But also important, it’s still marginalised, seen as unimportant, let’s shout it from the roof tops.
Memories already drift into revelry thinking back to a heady four days where life is lived in a little bubble and nothing seems more pressing than how long the queue for the shower is.
Of Mumford And Sons, attracting a huge audience for their Saturday night headline gig and then losing them with an hour of the difficult later work that clearly a great proportion of people didn’t know.
On sitting on the grass on a Sunday afternoon listening to The Divine Comedy charm a crowd whose energy was visibly starting to sag. Headline slots at Latitude are tricky; the bands have critical acclaim and hipster followers but not necessarily bangers through their set lists. So it proved for the 1975 and Fleet Foxes, more than pleasant but not going down in any history books. The best music of the weekend came in the smaller spaces -Will Young in the smoky film and music tent, Joe Goddard in the Sunrise arena spinning discs until 3am, hit and crowds were forced to stagger back to their tent.
The comedy space was perhaps the most solid place to be for guaranteed entertainment over the weekend. Where there is an endearingroughness to a lot of the theatre-type work that gets put on the majority of comedy is already scalpel sharp, Andy Parsons was a Sunday lunchtime treat with a set inspired by the NHS and travelled circular around the topic with zingerafter zinger. Lolly Adefobe was a new name to me but impressed with her character driven work, while Aisling Bea is well known and a delightful late addition to the bill. Simon Amstell paled in comparison to his warm ups, a try-out of new material was full of stutters and overly solipsistic and the crowd reacted diffidently as a result.
Cabaret was hit and miss all weekend, for all the joy of some of Soho Theatre takeover, there were stand-ups failing to elicit laughs. Sarah Bennetto bucked the trend somewhat with a warm set that drew plenty of giggles in regards to her social experiment on London buses, while impressionist Luke Kempner proved that his move from musical theatre to voicing Russell Brand was the right decision, even if too much of this set was focused on Donald Trump (whisper it) his weakest impression.
Finally, so much of the long drive home was consumed with what might have been; the things that were missed. I – a critical first – drifted off watching circus from Barely Methodical Troupe: Kin not a reflection on the physically impressive work but a mid-festival slump as the midnight hour hit. Mark Kermode in conversation with Paul Greengrass. Fatboy Slim. Tons of great dance on the Waterfront that my colleague Nikki Evans diligently covered.
That’s the thing with these big multi-art festivals. Every journey is so different. You can watch material for 14 hours a day and never sleep and still see only a small percentage of what’s on. It’s why I have Latitude 2018 already circled in the diary and am eagerly counting down the days like a kid at Christmas. See you there?
Tickets for Latitude Festival 2018 will be available from 10 am on Thursday 20 July