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Latitude 2016: Little House and Faraway Forest review – ‘bold and bizarre’

Latitude Festival at Henham Park, Southwold. Photo: Victor Frankowski
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The theatre arena at Latitude is only one part of the festival’s programme of performance and the installations, short plays and other work happening in the Faraway Forest and beyond ranged this year from the gently intimate to the bold and bizarre.

Amongst the former was Fernando Rubio’s Everything By My Side, previously performed as part of LIFT. The piece consists of seven white beds into which audience members are invited to slip beneath the duvet and share a moment of quiet, calm intimacy with a single performer – although in the blistering summer sun, most people elected to remain outside the covers. It was charmingly understated but most effective when given single-minded attention, though noise bleed from the comedy tent risked undermining the piece’s unshowy nature.

This wasn’t the only occasion where the work felt ill-suited to its location: Poleroid Theatre’s This Must be the Place, by Brad Birch and Kenneth Emson, was hidden amongst the trees in a way that encouraged people to stumble across it, but the oblique nature of the writing seemed most likely to reward those who had been there from the start.

There was more forest fare from Pentabus, which was presenting a collection of short plays by its Young Writers’ Group, its fragmented nature made it more accessible to the waves of newly arriving audience members.

Beyond the trees, Seance, the third binaural sound experience from Glen Neath and David Rosenberg, took place in a pitch black shipping container. This is their most successful collaboration to date. Where their last piece, Fiction, occasionally struggled to justify its form, Seance felt perfectly contained and completely absorbing, spine-tingling in spite of the venue’s blistering heat.

The Little House is Latitude’s secondary performance space and is significantly smaller – with audience members turned away disappointed for many pieces. The programme of new work included the premiere of Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s play Torch, a solo show with songs performed by the likeable Jess Mabel Jones. An examination of feminism and sex, it felt like the less sure-voiced sibling to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, and while its protagonist’s position of relative privilege is vaguely referenced, the play’s reliance on feminism without intersectionality leaves it with little new to say. Far more successful was a bizarre but filthily funny work-in-progress from performance artist Lucy McCormick, an unforgettable hour of silliness, dancing, food (audience members in the front row risked being covered with coffee) and unflinching nudity.

With some of the most exciting pieces of the weekend nestled away for audiences to discover for themselves – including fun, inventive works by Emma Frankland and Catherine Hoffman – Latitude again proves itself a festival with faith in its audiences, ready to programme daring new work and to reward the curious.

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Away from the main arena, Latitude’s eclectic programme of performance ranges from the bold to bizarre