That perfect festival moment – where music, crowd and sky all unite to create that performance that seems to define and encapsulate everything and everyone that goes on around it. Usually this is confined to the big music stages, but writer Sabrina Mahfouz somehow manages to bring that fist-pumping euphoria to the theatre tent with new play With a Little Bit of Luck, one of the highlights of Latitude’s sun-stroked 10th anniversary festival.
It’s a story of growing up and growing smart in the endless summer of 2001, against a live soundtrack of floor-filling British Garage classics. The crowd whoops as musician Gabriel Benn drops every beat, and singer Martyna Baker’s gorgeous vocals gyrate across a sea of raised hands. The story of a girl’s attempt to unload enough Ecstasy to pay her way through uni isn’t the most electric, but the atmosphere, Mafouz’s diamond-clear language and Seroca Davis’s beaming performance crackle with a rare and unexpected life.
In the small and sweltering Little House tent, Action Hero present their new work Wrecking Ball, turning their lens on to the world of modelling, the cult of youth and specifically on Terry Richardson, whose shoots blend pop art with self-shot pornography. James Stenhouse welcomes his audience and fellow Action Hero Gemma Paintin into an atmosphere of apparent calm and self-liberation, and in doing so exposes questionable aspects of the industry.
There’s also a disturbing new work from Latitude regulars Clean Break, whose mission to create theatre with and about women within the prison system this year takes them inside the grim armour of a police containment van for Chloë Moss’s brutal short play Sweatbox. Shut in the stifling van, we listen as three women in their coffin-like cubicles let us into the lives that have brought them there, and the lives they can expect on the inside. Like so much of this phenomenal company’s activity, it’s vital, humane work with real theatrical heft.
Bryony Kimmings says her new show is a love story, and performed as it is with her real-life fiancé Tim Grayburn, Fake it ’til you Make it, which takes in their experiences of managing Grayburn’s chronic depression as a couple, is truly moving stuff. It’s stronger as a work of personal biography than an examination of the crisis of male depression, but its sincerity and haunting imagery make it another impressive addition to Kimmings’ body of work.
If the theatre at Latitude has its own headliner, this year it’s unquestionably Knee High, who offer up the world premiere of their new show 946, or rather the ‘dress rehearsal’ as director Emma Rice describes this stripped-back showing. Even without bells, whistles, or even its ending (as the final scene is cut short by the strict stage timings) it’s a gorgeous piece, telling the story of ill-fated D-Day training mission Operation Tiger through the eyes of a rural family displaced by the American military’s takeover of their town.
Adapted by Rice and Michael Morpurgo from the Warhorse writer’s own novel, its mixture of puppetry, music and kinetic performance is as poignant in its depiction of tragedy as it is gleeful in its high-kicking good times. A highpoint of another rich weekend of new performances bursting to the surface and stretching into life.