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Latitude Festival 2010 Reviews (14)

PLAYlist

Theatre503

Theatre503 bring their regular new writing night PLAYlist to Latitude, showing again that they've bused more talented people onto site than any other company. Like other new writing nights, the aim is to showcase short new plays by up-and-coming writers; but the innovation in this format is that each new play must be inspired by a song, and preferably last no longer than the song itself.

For Latitude, nine writers have been commissioned to pick a song by an artist or band performing at the festival, and write a theatrical response to it. A versatile cast of five cover all the parts, and Derek Bond directs. Each piece lasts barely five minutes: it's a great format and produces some fine little gems (that benefit, of course, by never being able to outstay their welcome).

The nine pieces are: The Geese of Beverley Road by Daniel Kanaber, inspired by The Geese of Beverley Road by The National; Foreground by Tom Morton Smith, inspired by Foreground by Grizzly Bear; A Hundred Years or More by Hannah Mulder, inspired by The Testimony of Patience Kershaw by The Unthanks; The Other Side of the Fence by Ben Ockrent, inspired by Infinity by The xx; I'm Thinking I Was Wrong by Sian Owen, inspired by New Romantic by Laura Marling; Waiting for the Heartaches by Lola Stephenson, inspired by Waiting for the Heartaches by The Coral; Arse by Colin Teevan, inspired by You've Got the Love by Florence and the Machine; 1993 at the Candy Shop by Jack Thorne, inspired by Coles Corner by Richard Hawley; and Paperweight by Rosalind Wyllie, inspired by Paperweight by Joshua Radin.

My particular highlights were Hannah Mulder's touching vignette of a nervous man trying to strike up conversation with the girl who stocks the shelves in the supermarket; Jack Thorne's lovely little piece about adolescent love, with a boy waiting to meet the girl of his dreams outside the sweet shop and his mate stoking up his fear; and Colin Teevan's retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream (the second of the festival), with a lowly actor from an improv troupe given "magic dust" by a stranger, transformed into an ass and finally getting to cavort bestially with Florence herself.

Best of the lot, for me, was Colin Teevan's Arse, which has a gay pig - meant to be breeding stock and so now in line for the abattoir instead - recalling with quiet, upper-class reserve the events of one night's romantic liaison, which made him realise what he was. It's a lovely bit of comic anthropomorphism, all the funnier for the delicate restraint of Teevan's writing; and as the pig Simon Darwen brings the house down.

There's no overall continuous theme to the pieces, so the idea is that we appreciate each one as a complete entity in itself. It's great for getting us to respect the craftsmanship that has gone into making each piece of work, however short it may be. And it would be nothing without the quality of the writing: Theatre503 continuing their fine record of giving as many artists as possible the platform on which to shine.

Corinne Salisbury

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©Peter Lathan 2009