The sun went down on another year of theatre, music, arts and literature as Latitude wrapped itself up on Sunday.
On the last day of the Suffolk festival, I wound my own experience up with two very different pieces, one large scale and full-length with a complex narrative, and one bijou in every sense of the word. But both examples of how theatre can truly transport you and create new worlds to invite you to briefly step into.
Theatre Ad Infinitum’s preview of Bucket List, took a large audience in the main theatre arena to the streets of Mexico, where young teenager Milagros finds herself an orphan after her mother is killed protesting against deep corruption that’s poisoning the city.
Left with a bloodstained piece of paper containing the names of those her mother blamed for the governmental and corporate corruption harming the city, Milagros embarks on a journey of revenge.
The narrative is fantastical, but rooted in a realistic context, and relayed in quite a literal fashion. Still work in progress before the show moves up to Edinburgh, for me, it worked best when the skilful, all-female cast worked together to create more abstract physical pieces of movement, to music performed live onstage, losing some of the literal narration and creating more conceptual moments. To me this was a closer echo of Mexico’s rich literary history of magical realism, where the fantastical and the rational seamlessly coexist. The performances were confident, and the subject matter often deeply moving as a reflection of the everyday terror and oppression of citizens as the impact of corporate and governmental greed filters down to those most vulnerable.
At the other end of the spectrum, in size at least, was Séance, by Glen Neath and David Rosenberg, creators of Ring and Fiction. Lasting just 15 minutes, with no live cast, and taking place in a shipping container with an audience of 20, it was proof that sometimes the smallest of pieces can have mighty impact. Queuing for my place, I experienced a stab of nerves as the group ahead of us came out, some of the younger audience members looking decidedly wobbly, one on the verge of tears. A fully immersive audio experience that takes place in complete darkness, Séance was wonderfully inventive, clever and above all deliciously eerie fun – if you’re the sort of person who loves being scared. Settled – or rather unsettled – into old cinema seats around a long table, we were asked to place large headphones over our ears, and set our hands on the table, before being plunged into total darkness. The séance unfolded, with traditional devices – creaking doors, tense silences, soft, nervous voices, deployed to great effect; disorientated by the deprivation of your other senses, it was easy to be drawn into the cunningly fabricated world as things started to go horribly, terrifyingly wrong.
Latitude is such a diverse celebration of the arts in myriad forms. A fertile testing ground for new writing, Edinburgh shows having their first outing before an audience, wonderfully creative experiences, little and large-scale. It’s just a shame it’s only once a year.
Séance is at the Birmingham Rep from October 18-29.
Image: Victor Frankowski