Summer 2017 and Latitude brings us another eclectic range of entertainment, covering all the arts and at times sciences too.
I found myself down in a faraway forest this year amongst a theatrical range of events but remember when you go down to the woods, you can be sure to be surprised! The theatre presentations seemed just that – a presentation! Rather than a dramatic. emotionally engaging journey the performances presented material, often of interest but with little thought about the craft of acting. Little characterisation and few acting techniques were evident for this fascinating range of performances.
Fist to catch my eye was the DASH ARTS with its well-crafted house of wooden construction and furnished like the iconic Russian summer-house that we all imagine the president, if not the proletariat to visit. Samovars were bubbling books lined the shelves, holy icons adorned the walls and poetry and prose were digested along with more edible snacks, typical of Russia circa 1917 as the Russian peasants’ journey towards their revolution. Readings, tea and conversations, along with indigenous games helped distract from the desperate plight of the many during this period. But, it was not all retrospective as Belarusian punk rocker, Sacha Ilyukevich also sang of love and rage. It was a delightful idea – welcoming theatre where the audience are made to literally feel at home, as they meander through the trouble times of Russia.
In contrast with the historic perspective there lay another small hut in the forest with a keen eye on the future.
READ YOUR DNA LIVE. The Salford University desk was promoting the exciting benefits of DNA. Swabs were available for DNA extraction, computer programmes were running to assimilate the information gained and the results of the many would be shared in the afternoon presentation in the Welcome Trust Arena. The people still speak but through science this time and their personal information will tell us about the range of conditions present at Latitude – anonymously of course! Microbiologists,Dr Joe Latimer, Sarah Withers and Ian Goodhead are the first to sequence bacterial DNA at a UK festival.
Swabbed fans are offered analyses covering the range of bugs about their person. The team of Salford University scientists was delightfully enthusiastic in explaining their intention to demystify the DNA process – to move it from the thriller and excluding environment of the lab or detective and release it to the people. A revolution indeed.
An escape from the forest led me to the SPEAKEASY where the late night revelers were taking refuge, making it rather difficult for lunchtime gig of the comic who struggled to ignite her audience. Talking about jilted romances and the cauldron collider with limited powers of description made the experience dull and pretty unfunny, as she herself conceded at one point. Fleeing back to the forest I stumbled upon the master of dry and caustic wit, Tony Parsons, who was engaging a crowd, spilling out of the arena, in the CABARET THEATRE section that snuggled by the edge of the forest. He provided a lesson in standup, topical and observant. Of course he struggled with the same restraints as other comics, that being, this being a family event, post late night revelries’ and a lunchtime comedy makes the pre watershed slot a challenge. Lorraine Fobert suffered from this as much of her lack-lustre character material fell on stony ground – even she admitted her language or ideas were not her best jokes – you do wonder why bother?
Back to the forest. Another first! It was a delight to find PAINES PLOUGH reviving and developing their show Come To Where I’m From – and it had never been done at festivals before. This installation gave us an interactive map, notes and comments from people in towns all around the UK. It was fascinating hearing first hand accounts through neatly arranged headsets amongst the trees, where you could lie and hear the comments form a range of provincial towns like Oxford, Coventry or Watford. Later in the afternoon, by a shed, in a wood a company of three narrated the thoughts of those from far and wide. the readings were funny and moving in equal parts, reaffirming the complexity of identity, both personally and nationally.
By the forest lurked an intriguing performance from OVAL HOUSE. The Believers are but Brothers. This is a part of OVAL HOUSE’ FiRST BiTES series of new performance pieces, currently in development and presented as work-in-progress. A presentation full of interesting ideas but lacking any emotional journey, as it flails from anecdote to fact with little regard for theatrical convention. A work in progress indeed but sufficiently unique in content for OVALHOUSE to promote it.
The production, with Javaad Alipoor, investigates a range of issues about men, culture, violence, boredom and faith in Islamic culture. Online, Muslim men share a global platforms, exchanging banter and anecdotes – seemingly sharing a problem the same the world over – perception. Who and what are Muslims and who is driving the narrative? Simple facts at the start of the narration are thought-provoking; in a population of 3 million less than 330 are involved in some way with ISIS. At times this rant, these monologues or conversations lost focus but still gripped us, at it explored the unknown web world where doxing was greeted with delight, or 4chan, with man-boys who just delighted themselves, legally or illegally. What seemed alarming was that this Orwellian styled dystopia, where the availability of red pills that can keep you in wonderland or the blue pills that take you to the abyss, prevailed so easily. This is the world of such lone men, the World of Warcraft, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game able to connect you in insolation! Alipoor, explains that such attitudes and desires have bled into the main thoroughfares of the internet. It is not just with the emojo or the systems hacking or hiding n the Deep or Dark Web that seep across the internet but they also help create narratives about Muslims and terrorism. These narratives are amplified by major news outlets by people who don’t know where things started or indeed understanding where things will end.
No real connections are made and in the voids there are numerous telegenic moments of violence translated eventually into the lone male seeking connections, often through acts of violence. With a limited vocal range for expression and poor projection, Alipoor’s performance, often lacked connection with his audience. Either delivered with headphones on behind a computer screen or reading from prepared monologues it suggested that real connectivity is not on. This is a veiled performance. The off-hand remark about Italian men and feminism was filled with a natural desire to connect but sadly this was all too fleeting. However, OVALHOUSE were bang on to promote this piece as it does explore an area few know about and it gives a different voice to Muslim men who clearly struggle with their identity
The forest seemed to be all about identities who do you think we are – where are we from – what are we made from – where do we belong? All these were explored in this fascinating forest. It seemed to me that wherever we are from and who ever we are it is somehow in our DNA and there is no escape either through class or money or even geography. You can run but you cannot hide.