Latitude’s main theatre spaces hosted some big names last weekend, packing the crowds sardine-style into hot marquees for headline productions, but the Faraway Forest was alive with smaller, sketchier and more intimate work – seedlings and offcuts of projects by live artists, performers and makers of all manner of stuff. Staggering over gnarly roots and encountering unexpected art in the shadowy sunlight, I found the forest (curated by Tania Harrison) easily the most fun and fertile place at the festival.
In the Live Art tent, Made in China showed an early incarnation of their work-in-progress Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me, a solo piece performed by Jess Latowicki about how we constantly shape and change our identities by taking on new skills. Latowicki deadpanned a ten-minute, darkly obsessive stream of consciousness, then switched up the tone with a flashy tap set-piece. She’s been learning tap since January for the show, and is getting pretty good. Afterwards, she taught us a couple of steps and invited us to share our skills to feed into the company’s research and development process. Then we drank martinis. You can read my interview with the company here.
Ellie Stamp’s Are You Lonesome Tonight is further along, starting a run at Summerhall in Edinburgh next month. It’s an interactive game show incorporating live music, dancing, and banana and peanut butter toasties (what’s not to like?). Exploring the fault-line between delusion and imagination, Stamp – a breezily captivating performer who juggles intensity and lightness with ease – presents the impossible case that she is the love child of Elvis Presley. It’s a dreamily stimulating experience about the covert meanings and patterns we decipher in things, and will be interesting to see how it shapes up over the next weeks or so.
Over in the Forest Fringe tent, Tales of Whatever kickstarted the weekend with storytelling and secret sharing, as audiences offered up tales from the surreally domestic to the illegal and the actually incredible. One of them I swear I could sell to the Mail Online (no really), but I’m sworn to secrecy.
Christopher Brett Bailey performed a “B-side” of his acclaimed show This is How We Die on Saturday and Sunday – terrifyingly vivid and fantastically filthy, it’s hard to believe this was the material that didn’t actually make the grade. An electrifyingly drawled monologue, it’s the story of an apocalyptic, hallucinogenic road-trip that sounds like some pages from Lolita, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and a comic about robots who got stuck together with the spunk of a decapitated priest – forget Lana Del Rey, this is where the American dream came to get fucked up and die. From what people are saying about the Oval House run, the show proper is even better.
Brian Lobel’s one-on-one show for Forest Fringe is a little more mellow, but no less powerful for it. Titled You Have To Forgive Me, it’s a durational piece in which the performer prescribes an episode of Sex and the City for each individual audience member, based on a sex and relationships questionnaire comprised of every iconic, clunkily metaphorical question that Carrie “couldn’t help but wonder” in her columns – you know: “are relationships the religion of the nineties?”. After talking through your answers, you then get into bed with Brian (I feel like I should call him Brian) and watch the episode, cuddling and chatting about how it relates to your own love life. It’s an incredibly brave piece, for both the actor and the participant, and in its final moments disarmingly moving. Is pop culture the therapist of Generation Y? (Stop it, Carrie.) I had an episode about fetishes and online dating. Then I left and had a small cry.
Tired, inspired and covered in a weekend’s worth of glitter, I made my way back to the campsite on Sunday evening to pack up my tent. Emboldened by so many artists sharing risky or half-formed work, and the audiences willing to squat on the muddy ground inside a glorified gazebo to watch it take shape, here’s a question that I couldn’t help but wonder: are we spending too much time sitting safely in the fields when we should be running recklessly into the forest?
Faraway Forest was part of Latitude Festival.