In contrast to the heatwave experienced here in 2018, this year’s festival has more typical British summer temperatures, with a glorious gentle breeze; how very civilised.
The Latitude line up is as strong as ever, with all manner of talks, theatre, comedy, music and dance awaiting the keen festival explorer looking to venture from one’s palatial canvas abode to the main arena; let the fun begin!
Blasts of from the infectious lo-fi beats can be heard from Kokoko, as Maisy Adams begins her set over on the comedy stage. A music collective from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kokoko infuse fast rhythms, DIY instrumentals and a spirit of improvisation to create a surprisingly upbeat brand of music considering the dangerous streets and background they come from, their tunes are perfect for a festival audience.
As the final musical embers die away, Maisy Adams thrusts forth and greets her crowd. Adams, a Yorkshire woman through and through, now resides in Brighton and with the benefit of hindsight and several hundred miles, takes a fresh look at the eccentricities of the place she called her childhood home. These include wonderful stories about her french teacher, Madame Dawson, who insisted in speaking the language in a thick northern accent, Adam’s role as a lippy shepherds wife in a version of the nativity and the tale of a lost finger. Adams’ self-deprecating style, warmth and northern charm endear her to the crowd and ensure she leaves the stage with many more new fans.
Over in the Speakeasy tent, Dr Hannah Critchbow is talking about The Science of Fate (the title of her new book). In this fascinating and illuminating hour-long conversation Dr Critchbow explains the current understanding science has about the function of the brain and how it plays a vital part in who we are and in setting the parameters for who we can become.
Scientists can now see how brain circuitry is being formed in a foetus in the womb and are beginning to identify how certain neurological disorders could be corrected as they are being formed. This is miraculous stuff, which also presents many moral dilemmas as technology outpaces societal concerns.
Dr Critchbow also looks at how things like anxiety and phobias can be passed via genetics through trans-generational memory. This can be seen in an experiment where mice were given tiny electric shocks when being fed cherries. The cherries were then taken away and not introduced into the mouse community until two generations had passed. These new, related, mice had a negative response to the cherries never having seen them before but having the bad memory pass on to them by their grandparents.
More exciting facts come as we find out 30% of what will decide your weight comes from genetics as does a vast majority of confirmation bias.
The Dr was asked if this degree of predetermination depresses her. “On the contrary” she exclaimed. She finds it quite liberating to know one’s limitations. It also means we may look at each other with more kindness and compassion knowing this is the case.
On directly after Dr Critchbow, in a vastly contrasting piece of programming, is the wonderfully engaging and funny Luke Wright. Luke, a rock and roll poet, who has gigged with the likes of John Cooper-Clarke, amongst many others, espouses “opinions like confetti from an arsehole”, to quote his fabulous anarchic words. In an hour of laughter, dextrous wordplay, poignancy and captivating storytelling, Wright has the audience transfixed.
Traversing topics encompassing his “truth” about being a son, father and lover, Wright displays a fast wit, great skill as a wordsmith and a warm likeable nature as he lampoons himself in his material. In tender, exposing moments he talks about the fickle nature of fatherhood and indirectly, the break up of his marriage.
A show-stopper is his lewd verse about Burt and his adventures in the pub, using only the vowel sound U throughout. It’s a dirty grinding ditty which has the throng in fits of mock outrage and laughter.
Wright also points out the first couple of controversies that have been buzzing around the festival already; the first being the presence of clothing outfitters Next at the festival. “They have no place here”, he argues. “Topman is Top and Next is, obviously Next”. Second on his list in the introduction of the Barclay’s Sensorium. “What’s a sensorium?”, he quips. “You take your senses everywhere with you don’t you?” Of course, he is perfectly correct.
Loud, uncensored and delightful to the last, if you think you’re not the poetry type go and see Wright, his gifted, entertaining performance will definitely change your mind.
Briefly popping into the Obelisk Arena, Anna Calvi is rocking out, like Jimi Hendrix. The power trio onstage rock the crowd with their intense guitar sound. Calvi is an inventive musician who uses the stage, having a PJ Harvey vibe about her. Her set is immense fun to dip into.
Finally, as it wouldn’t be Latitude without it, we move to the Theatre tent, here performing is The Pappy Show’s Girls. Last year the Boys were here to great acclaim and now it is the turn of the women to put on a performance.
Containing a lot of the structure of the Boys show the girls performance already feels familiar as they take to the stage, but the content is uniquely theirs. With a healthy span of ages and ethnicities represented this devised movement and speech piece beguiles the attentive audience from the off.
Both tender and fierce in equal measure the show explores how the women on stage experience their femininity on a daily basis and how they interact with the world. Funny and poignant we see different stories from the ‘girls’ unfold. The eldest member of the cast tells a touching story about her childhood, her strict father and the start of her acting career. She get full belly laughs from the audience and a tear or two as well.
The troupe use movement to express collective anger, power play, love, life and everything in-between. A tender dance between two of the cast is followed by an expressive war chant and truths are revealed as this intimate and entertaining performance continues. Each member of the group is used well and the singer/musician is a star in her own right.
It is a thoroughly engaging piece to end the evening of day one as the rain starts to fall and memories of a warm dry 2018 irritatingly come to mind.
Simon Topping | Image: Victor Frankowski