By KRIS HALLETT
Along with Edinburgh and panto, Latitude is the one time of year where theatre can be a morning activity as well as a form keeping nocturnal hours.
Consequently with coffees still in hand, a small spattering of cultural vultures packed into the Speakeasy tent to see a first work-in-progress showing of theatremaker Daniel Bye’s latest. So much in progress that even the title has changed since the program was published from Safe House to Instructions for Border Crossings, the work takes on some of the fears of left liberal Remainers about the state of play when UK borders go up. Bye combines his performance career with a dash of academia and the work has the attention to detail one would expect of a lecture series. He mixes scenes of ridiculous bureaucratic interrogation of refugees, question and answer scenarios with audience members while playing Jenga and a plot where he falls foul of the state at a protest march and comes into contact with mythical performance artist Edward Shorter, an artist whose work is so mythical that no evidence of it exists, it lives only through hearsay. There is still work to do before it hits the Fringe net month, the second half particularly feels under-rehearsed but it is always a thoughtful intelligent work that is sure to grow over the course of its run and was lapped up by a sympathetic crowd first thing.
There are plenty of rock stars hanging around at Latitude but, in the comedy arena, the crowds react to the stand ups with the same adulation. If an audience is ever in need of a pick up a couple of hours in the comedy area is an ideal pickup. Friday night headliner Dara O’Briain doesn’t disappoint, testing out some new material over the course of his hour long set. At one point he audibly remonstrated with himself over perceived material fails but he needn’t have worried, he has the audience eating o out of the palm of his hand. Topics veer between middle-class parenting, his viral gif, man-crushing on scientist Brian Cox, and reading out the news of his death on an Australian news website. Who knew there were ravines in Dublin? It’s in his ab-libs, though, when the show is truly at its best, especially when he came face to face with any comedians worst nightmare, the 10-year-old comedy critic who demanded better fact checking.
Warming up the comedy tent before him Susan Calman and Brennan Reece both worked hard to deliver strong sets that didn’t distract too much from the main event. The middle-class crowd who attend the festival seem to be the favoured fall back for almost all comedians who attend and so plenty of material was plundered from upgrading to bigger houses and purchasing second overseas properties, babysitting precocious five-year-olds and most interesting the gender roles and where they are now in modern society. For those arriving early to ensure a good vantage point for O’Briain they more than kept the laughs coming.
As dusk made way for night, the film and music tent made for a hot and sensual atmosphere for Will Young’s Summer Jazz sessions. Young never felt a natural fit for the manufactured world of reality tv but seems to have found his place in recent years. His jazz takes on some of his own back catalogue such as Jealousy as well as some standards of the form and reveal his voice to be a flexible, powerful instrument and in his interactions between songs reveal an artist more comfortable than he has appeared for some time.
Late night hijinks can always be provided in the cabaret tent and this year Soho Theatre took over for the first night showcasing their favourite acts. In a cabaret setting there are as many misses as hits but Late Night Gimp Fight impressed with 20 minutes of sketch work that would be a perfect fit for BBC3 and Lucy McCormack shocked and scandalised with extracts from her now (in)famous Triple Threat.
Latitude Festival runs from 13 – 16 July 2017 at Henham Park, Suffolk