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 the second day (of four) of Latitude Festival 2017, where we packed in no less than 14 different shows over a period of roughly 12 hours, including slices of science, poetry and dance in addition to the regulation music and comedy.
A great location for seeing something new and different, The Cabaret Theatre presented some excellent comedy acts. The Friday line-up included stand-up newcomer Sarah Keyworth, whose dry, witty observations about the reality of growing up were certainly good enough to foresee her frequenting the larger Comedy tent in future years. She was followed by the incredible character comedy of Joseph Morpurgo, whose silly-yet-dark multimedia show presented by an over-ambitious yet totally talentless director of a frankly ridiculous production of Frankenstein was a definite highlight of the day. This guy will go far.
Friday also saw And Remember We Care‘s “Brexit: The Gameshow”, deep in the Faraway Forest, where two teams of audience members competed to correctly guess some of the revealing statistics, dodgy connections and shocking lies associated with evidentally unscrupulous politicians who have represented the UK during the EU referendum and subsequent exit negotiations. Like a audience invasion during an episode of “Have I Got News For You” that just happened to be recorded in the middle of a wood, Brexit: The Gameshow was fun, silly and utterly outrageous, but also enlightening, with a razor-sharp political edge.
Also strongly political was Mark Thomas, who presented a “work-in-progress” version of his hilarious forthcoming touring show Predictable, over at The Speakeasy. Like fellow headliner Dara O’Briain, who performed his usual routines on technology and video games to a packed audience over at the Comedy tent, Mark is intelligent and quick-witted – but he also has a totally addictive impishness and desire to stir things up. Next Monday – thanks to the input of the Latitude Festival audience – he is genuinely going to place a bet on President Trump visiting the UK, falling off Southend pier and being eaten by a giant kraken. I wonder what odds he’ll get?
The Speakeasy also saw the similarly-named astronomer Mark Thompson (from BBC’s Stargazing Live) present “The Show at the End of the Universe”, which was family-focussed and sadly at times a little dull. Although the subject matter was interesting, it could have been presented in a more engaging fashion. Less talk, and more action, essentially! He was followed by some uncomfortable stand up poetry from nihilist poet Johnny Fluffypunk, who when compared to Luke Wright yesterday was definitely substandard. Then, to show just how diverse Latitude is, the original Pop Idol Will Young gave an intelligent, heartfelt and truly inspiring talk – followed by audience questions – on how to create better relationships and working lives via “The Art of Listening”. Genuinely helpful and touching, Will clearly demonstrated there’s a lot more to him – and indeed Latitude Festival itself – than pop music. And to further prove his point, he later performed to a crammed audience a range of old school standards – along with re-imagined jazz versions of his pop hits – over at the Music & Film Arena, as part of his “Summer Jazz Sessions”.
Of course, music is a very important part of the festival, and this year Latitude certainly delivered. Friday’s headliners, contemporary rock band The 1975 were more than adequately supported over at the Obelisk Arena by electronic pop legends Goldfrapp. Fronted by Alison Goldfrapp – who still looks stunning at 51 – the duo very much owned the main stage. Meanwhile, the BBC Music Stage excellently represented for the 1990s, with performances from shoegazers Ride, who actually delivered a more mature, rich sound than they had done back in the day; and alternate rock band Placebo, whose ageless, black, intense sound very much fitted the atmosphere of the dark BBC Music Stage tent.
The evening saw a performance of Holly Blakey‘s “Some Greater Class”, a somewhat unique dance display over at the Waterfront stage. Although doubtlessly technically excellent, with the performers doing incredibly difficult and expressive things with their bodies, it was a challenging to the uninitiated, not to say totally baffling to those uninformed about interpreting dance.
Despite it being one of the most family-friendly festival, every year sees the entertainment at Latitude Festival carry on through the night, with club DJs pumping out the standard dance music until the early hours. This year also saw a selection of late night adult-focussed entertainment very much not intended for children. Friday’s highlight was definitely White Mink, which turned the Music & Film Arena into a roaring 1920s dance hall, with live electro swing and jazz music, combined with lively dance routines on the dancefloor (with the audience encouraged to join in), and vintage cabaret and erotic burlesque performers.
A day of huge variety in entertainment – in terms of both quality and content – Day Two very much contained everything that could be expected from an arts festival. Could the high standard be maintained for the weekend? Find out what happened in our reviews of Day Three and Day Four.