Heavy rain has just cleared, the lightening is no longer posing a threat and strolling past the Obelisk Arena the smooth sound of Irish rock band Walking on Cars tempt lost wanderers to sit for a while and listen to the round tones of lead singer Patrick Sheehy. The group have an appealing guitar pop sound, which feels vaguely eighties, yet thoroughly modern at the same time. After being captivated by the band’s charm for several songs it is time to move on to the Cabaret Theatre where Deborah Frances-White is about to start a short comedy set. Frances-White, known predominately for her Guilty Feminist podcast, is a deft comedian and writer too.
After ten minutes of impish crowd play, the Australian performer focuses in on two main stories for the remainder of the gig. The first is a charming tale about an ill-advised and calamitous trip to a Build-a-Bear workshop with her friend’s children, which has the parents in the tent nodding and laughing in agreement with the predicament she found herself in.
The second sharing is about an epic prank she played on a fellow artiste at a festival, who was unashamedly misogynist. It’s a fabulous account of collusion, deception, high art and sweet revenge, demonstrating Frances-White’s skill of being able to spin an entertaining yarn to the delight of her appreciative audience.
Later in the evening the pioneering physical theatre company, Frantic Assembly perform their new play, Sometimes Thinking. Written by acclaimed Olivier Award nominee, Phil Porter (The Miser, Blink) and developed in collaboration with the troupe, the piece celebrates the hours invested in daydreaming and fantasising about the people we could have been, the things we should have said, and who we might yet become. It is thirty-minutes of wondrous theatre that has spellbinding movement, with the use of three sliding doors and four actors constantly in flux as they interweave on stage. This produces a mesmerising effect and the audience are hypnotised.
The humour, tenderness and undercurrent of melancholy in the writing provides a strong foundation for the performance from which the actors can create playful vignettes. Emotional, moving and dizzyingly choreographed to precision, the piece is a great way to mark Frantic’s 25th anniversary. It wows the crowd and has a real warmth and heart to it. All the cast are marvellous and the themes have a deep resonance which stay with the audience long after the play has finished.
Back at the Obelisk Arena the Stereophonics claim the stage to great effect. Last-minute replacements for illness stricken Snow Patrol, Kelly Jones and the boys do not fail to deliver. Jones looks forever young as if he has made a secret pact with the devil or has a hideous portrait somewhere of himself gathering age in his attic. Not only does he look fabulous but he sounds great too. Belting out the classics including, Handbags and Gladrags, Have a Nice Day and Maybe Tomorrow, the audience enjoy a good sing-along, embracing the 1990s nostalgia and appreciating the solid performance from the Welsh rock stalwarts.
Ending the night, back at Speakeasy is the nation’s favourite French comedian, Marcel Lucont. Performing with an amazingly talented three-piece jazz band, who he relentlessly harangues, the “Frenchman” displays his languid style of comedy, highlighting his indifference to the British.
Hoping not to bring any energy to the show, Lucont recounts his philosophy of how it is always better to be late. The music is reminiscent of Mike Myers’ beat poetry in So I Married an Axe Murderer, it has a laid back beat with a fun edge of spiky humour.
The alter-ego of English comedian, Alexis Dubus, Lucont is at his best lampooning our nation for the poor choice we have recently made. Often hilarious and always funny he has created a joyously grotesque character full of sharp observations and cutting one-liners. The jazz chat with the audience is particularly funny. He is a fine improviser and revels in the chaos of crowd interaction. A fine way to finish the evening.
Sunday morning on the site and the older, bleary-eyed weekend visitors stare at each other, zombie-like, in the acknowledgement of what just three nights of festival camping does to the ageing bones and the brain’s processing abilities. Younger Latitude goers run rings round their elders glancing at us in bewilderment as they flee into the woods with the energy and spring of a freshly woken Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, (Oh to be young again!); It’s time for a good sit-down, those over forty collectively agree. Thankfully at Latitude there are plenty of things to consume while you are parking your posterior.
To begin today’s reclining agenda, a trip to the Listening Post is in order. Here top film critic and obsessive muso, Mark Kermode interviews three guests for his On Film podcast. The new Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage is greeted by Mark first. Long-time friends, Kermode and Armitage chat about all things poetry, music, film as well as the gift of Sherry the Huddersfield writer receives for being the royally appointed wordsmith. “I receive a butt of Sack (sherry) and thankfully not a sack of butts”, the Yorkshireman quips. A butt turns out to be the equivalent of 750 bottles, broken down to 75 bottles a year for each year of his ten-year tenure. Unsurprisingly he has found a lot of his friends are ardent sherry drinkers, despite never previously showing any interest. The chaps chat further about favourite films, their shared love of similar music and the positive changes that have happened in the poetry world regarding the increased inclusion of minorities and women in the art form.
This leads nicely to the introduction of Kermode’s next guest, the second appearance of Guilty Feminist podcaster, Deborah Frances-White. The podcast has received over 70 million downloads; a phenomenon the comedian puts down to women wanting to hear stories from their own eyes. She goes on to relay an entertaining story about pitching films in Hollywood, highlighting the craziness of the system. She is a great advocate of us all hearing stories from a diverse multitude of people; it must be important for everyone to absorb these messages rather than a white male perspective all the time, she imparts. It is an idea greeted with wholehearted approval from the Latitude crowd.
Finally, film writer and charity fundraiser, Richard Curtis enters the fray. He promotes his new Beatles homage, Yesterday, directed by Danny Boyle and shot, in part, at the festival in 2018.
Curtis wants to talk about women in film; the rise of female actors and filmmakers is a long overdue progression and most welcome.
As the podcast comes to a close, the audience feel they have been treated to some deep conversation and a good deal of light-hearted banter, mostly aimed at Armitage’s expense, which makes for an entertaining hour.
Still fatigued from our previous excursions, we stay at the Listening Post for Griefcast. This is an award-winning podcast about death created by comedian, improviser and actress, Cariad Lloyd. Lloyd lost her father as a teenager and this obviously had a big effect on her formative years. Wanting to share her experience and talk about it with other comedians, Cariad started the podcast. It has hit a chord with many people and become a huge success. Llyod is joined by Vanessa Hammick, Tom Allen and Tez Ilyas.
Light-hearted and playful, rather than mawkish and maudlin, the panel discuss how they would like to die (long in the future, not right now), what they would want their funeral to be like, what they think happens after death and how they want their legacy to be viewed. It is a witty conversation, lively and fun. Allen shines as he talks about his Brass Band, victorian style funeral and how he wants all his friends to mourn forever after he is gone.
Lloyd confesses to her constant death anxiety and Hammick reveals her unusual theory of how the soul lives on after death as it “leaks” out of the body. Ilyas wants his comedy legacy to live on at Blackburn football club and Allen has a desire to write a Sondheim-style musical in his final hours.
This is an absorbing, amusing hour of chat with a warm-hearted soul. The more we talk about societal taboos the less they remain as taboos. Griefcast is smashing the taboo of talking about death and helping a lot of people to process their emotions about mortality on the way, as well as being rip-roaring fun. Good on them!
Getting up for a gentle meander to the Speakeasy once more we pass by the Rankin photography exhibition. The iconic photographer has many wonderful images on show, mainly from bands and people in the ’90s. Passing by stunning portraits of Oasis, Natalie Imbruglia, Gaz Coombes of Supergrass and many more we are reminded of those halcyon, pre-internet days and the tiredness kicks in again as we remember how much time has passed since then.
Finally for this round-up, we catch half of Robin Ince’s (Infinite Monkey Cage) talk about his book, I’m a Joke and so are you. Informed by personal insights as well as interviews with top comedians neuroscientists and psychologists, Ince explores where anxiety comes from. How do we overcome imposter syndrome? What is the key to creativity? How can we deal with grief?
“Show me a child who has lost someone and I will show you a comedian.” He posits. Cliched it may be, but it doesn’t make the statement incorrect. Ince’s fabulous delivery, in a mind dump way (not as dirty as it sounds), is massively endearing and amusing to watch. He goes off at tangents as he explores the ideas he expounds in his publication, all of which add to the presentation and make his performance thought-provoking and most of all very funny. “The more we share our stories, the less shame is attached to them”, he goes on to say. It’s another good point; men sharing their feelings, with kindness and consideration, like Ince does perfectly, is truly a good thing.
Simon Topping | Image: Lauren Maccabee