Tales from the tents

Slightly belatedly since we've only just recovered, here's the lowdown on nabokov's Latitude 2009:

Thursday 16th

The nabokov fun bus departs nabokov towers at 6am with the Met Office's severe weather warning looming large. Lots of bleary eyed actors clutch coffees and garish wellies as bags and tents and various flight cases full of sound equipment are piled on the coach. Four hours later, everything's being hauled off again at Henham Park and nabokov camp takes shape amidst much grappling with bendy poles and guy ropes. Then it's all off for our first view of the incredible 600-seater in-the-round theatre tent in advance of our tech. "It's a bit like the collisseum," says someone, checking for lions with a gulp.


We have 90 minutes to tech three shows, which leads to lots of frantic topping and tailing of scenes while our amazing stage manager Kirsten and sound tech Giles somehow keep pace with myriad cues. Much caffeine and nictoine consumed. Meanwhile over in Pandora's Playground, the EVERY BRILLIANT THING tent is being filled with brilliant things. Excitement building. Everyone comes together for a nabokov company meeting so Kirsten can talk through the considerable logistics entailed in managing a company of 35 people through four shows over four days in a field in Suffolk - call times, costumes, props, meal tickets, riders, wristbands, rehearsal space, when Thom Yorke is on.

The sun is shining, though, so hooray for that. We abandon the postage stamp rehearsal tents backstage to run through the shows in the expanse of meadow by the lake. An audience flourescent sheep eye us quizzically from the other bank. A massive scrap breaks out behind us, which turns out to be Drywrite rehearsng Dryfight. It could only be Latitude.

A bit of grub and a mooch around, and suddenly it's showtime. Our one-off performance of IS EVERYONE OK? kicks off at 9:20pm in a packed theatre tent. John Simm is in the audience. So is Keith Allen, brandishing a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. The show goes down a storm, and seems to conjure a storm, because no sooner are we offstage than the heavens open. We scurry back to the performers bar and cower from the tempest.


Friday 17th
Most people's tents have miraculously stood the test of last night's biblical torrent but a few poor souls awake in a quagmire. Thank goodness the showers are hot, and the sun is back out. Still, wellies and cagools are de rigeur as the CRUNCH & WHEN CHERYL WAS BRASSIC companies head to the rehearsal tents for a few final tweaks and run throughs. The EVERY BRILLIANT THING tent opens at midday with the first performance by playwright Duncan Macmillan. Punters start adding their own brilliant things to the installation. One person writes "Latitude". Hear hear.


At 2:40pm it's curtain up on CRUNCH & CHERYL. There's a few hairy moments when mics stop working but the actors rise to the challenge majestically and conquer the collisseum. The crowd whoops, and we scurry backstage to get stuck into our rider and toast a top first show. It's all back over to the EVERY BRILLIANT THING tent where a range of actors from our and other companies are performing on the hour every hour.

The evening offers an opportunity to actually see some other stuff and we get stuck into The Bush's hilarious Suddenlosofdignity.com, Drywrite's inspired Dryfight and The Lyric's Simon Stephens penned rock 'n' roll Supernova. Backstage at the theatre tent and in the performers bar, it's like the theatre industry on tour.

Doves triumph on the main stage, our friend and Arts Club compere Luke Wright tears up the poetry tent and the nabokov gang ends the night dancing in Guilty Pleasures slightly unsteadily. Latitude is well and truly go.

Saturday 18th
The shower queue in performer's camping is a sight to behold. A line-up of theatrical luminaries look - to quote Cheryl - like vagrants what just got out of a bin; bleary-eyed, puffy-faced and groaning. The awesome full English in the performer's cafe sets everyone right, though, and we're back in the game.

We head off to watch our friends the Time Cats in the Woods, a bit more poetry, some bands and even some comedians. Two very special guests turn up to perform at the EVERY BRILLIANT THING tent. At 5pm, Frank Skinner takes to the mic stand and at 6pm it's Ed Byrne, drawing our biggest crowds of the weekend so far. Intrepid producer Camilla bumps into Jarvis Cocker who agrees to perform tomorrow. Yay!

Attention turns back to the theatre tent where CRUNCH & CHERYL hit the stage for a second time at 10:45pm. Some unease as we meet for a runthrough to find the tent virtually empty. Has everyone gone to see Grace Jones? Que pumping adrenalin, then, when the hordes descend and pack the tent to bursting as the clock ticks to showtime. Security actually close the tent, with well over the 600 capacity jostling for position, and the actors walk on stage to possibly the biggest crowd ever to see a nabokov show. There's no atmosphere like Latitude, and no crowd like a late night Saturday crowd. It's an absolute rush.


On a soaring high, the entire nabokov company - and seemingly everyone from the theatre tent - congregate under the chandelier in Guilty Pleasures for two hours of riotous dancing. Oh what a night.

Sunday 19th
Camped as we are by the main stage, we're woken by the best alarm clock ever. At 9:30am, Thom Yorke turns up for a soundcheck and serenades sore heads from sleeping bags and into the early morning sunshine. It seems everyone at the entire festival is watching his set at midday. A few shamefaced people admit defeat and trudge for the exits transfixed by home comforts. But we're far from done.

So many brilliant people now want to perform EVERY BRILLIANT THING, we've added slots on the half hour. Rising anticipation of Jarvis Cocker but after much to-ing and fro-ing by text, sadly his schedule won't allow. We ruefully catch his performance in the film tent, before watching more Arts Club alumni on stage in the form of the amazing Kate Tempest with Sound of Rum and the incomparable Irrepressibles floating on the lake stage. A few admiring glances at Nick Cave and it's all back to the poetry tent for the only way to end the festival - with the raucous Aisle16 and Friends.

Except this year it wasn't quite the finale. With the installation safely packed away, we invited all our friends to the EVERY BRILLIANT THING tent for a secret nabokov wrap party. Outside some departing caterers facilitated an actual bun fight as punters reluctantly departed the arena. Inside, the shindig raged nabokov style until the early hours with arms aloft until, after a last wild bounce to Mr Brightside, "You've been at the nabokov wrap party. Goodnight."

Monday 20th
There's nothing so depressing as the dismantling of tents after the party. Clutching coffee and bacon butties, the company gingerly pulls up tent pegs, packs up waterproofs and lugs their wares and ravaged bodies back to the fun bus in anticipation of a hot bath and 48 hours straight sleep.

Latitude, we loved every minute of it. Huge thanks to Tania, Caroline, Lauren, Panny and all the other brilliant people at Festival Republic and at The Latitude Theatre Tent for inviting us and looking after us and curating the best festival anywhere, ever. Till next year, Latitude, we bid you adieu.


Lots more Latitude photos, videos and other stuff to follow when we get our act together...