Latitude Festival 2017 – Day 1 - Review

July 13, 2017 | Henham Park, Suffolk

Only really second to inadequate toilet facilities, a major problem of going to festivals is choosing what do to next, particularly when there are clashes between some really exciting events – and when there is as much choice and variety as demonstrated at the Latitude Festival, Suffolk’s annual celebration of music, comedy and arts, this problem is made considerably worse. Now in its 12th year, the problem is showing no sign of slowing down. Here’s our review of our first day (of four) at Latitude Festival 2017, where we managed to cram in a mixture of theatre, poetry, comedy and music into a few hours:

Ostensibly an evening’s warm-up for the festival proper, the Thursday night line-up was surprisingly strong, considering the audience had effectively turned up “a day early” (according to comedian Tim Key). Highlights included performances from smash-hit show Hot Brown Honey and hip-hop stylings of The Get Down, plus popular comedy podcast My Dad Wrote A Porno. However, we began our Latitude 2017 experience in the Theatre tent, watching National Theatre Live: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, a screening of an on-stage performance of Tom Stoppard’s comedic masterpiece by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Joshua McGuire (The Hour) and David Haig (Four Weddings and a Funeral). Recorded at The Old Vic theatre in London back in April, the play was in equal measures silly, surreal, gripping, dark – and always engaging. Although the screening obviously lacked the immediate physicality inherent in a performance literally happening right in front of you, this otherwise excellent production was still very strong; it very much felt that the best of the West End had been transported into a tent in the middle of Suffolk.

Later that evening, the literature and poetry tent known as The Speakeasy saw local Suffolk-based poet Luke Wright take to the stage. Emotionally raw and packed with gritty honesty, Luke’s intense performance of his hard-hitting – yet brutally funny – poetry clearly demonstrated him to be an intelligent and powerful alternative wordsmith. The poetry continued in the Speakeasy with a hard-going set from cult comedian and performance poet Tim Key. Unfriendly and somewhat inebriated, Tim’s performance was not for the easily offended, with much of his “deliberately bad” poetry being very dark and abrupt, albeit occasionally punctuated with daft one-liners. Not likely to pick up casual tent-browsers, Tim’s performance was definitely one for the fans only.

A highlight of last year’s festival, The Speakeasy also saw Marcus Brigstocke once again share his love for the Purple One with his second PrinceFest. Just like last year, Marcus dressed up in a ridiculous wig and Prince-like outfit, with a fake home-made guitar around his neck, while he (and a few minor celebrity friends, plus later, audience members) lip-synced to a range of classic Prince hits from the 80s and 90s.  A raucous late night “event” show (as opposed to last year’s early evening family-fun surprise smash), this year’s fun was somewhat diminished at roughly the halfway point by a handful of rowdy audience members. Keeping the atmosphere light despite the challenges, Marcus was excellent at holding everything together enough to enable to the show to reach its end before things got entirely out of hand. Considering last year’s event was “the most fun (he’d) had in years”, at the end Marcus appeared to be a tad disappointed with the way this year’s show had gone. So it’s unlikely there’ll be a third PrinceFest next year – more’s the pity.

An evening of dark, intense and rowdy entertainment made for an unexpected opening salvo for what is considered to be one of the most family-friendly major festivals. It made us wonder how the festival would develop over the next three days. Find out what happened in our reviews of Day Two, Day Three and Day Four.

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