Canned-Culture Kate Tempest (Copyright: Neil Gavin) / Jekyll & Hyde (Copyright: The Lyric) / The Animals And Children Took To The Street (Copyright: 1927)

Live arts correspondent Bella Todd on the hottest happenings in the global cultural calendar this week, including a hip-hop MC making her playwriting debut at Latitude, Pitchfork skewering the festival opposition in Chicago, mud-skiing in Korea and James Corden bringing belly laughs to the West End...

The Main Event: Theatre at Latitude Festival

Most festivals have started programming the odd comedy, cabaret or live lit tent as a bit of light relief from the very serious business of getting off your face to the music. But at Latitude, now in its sixth year and running from Thursday to Sunday in England's rural Suffolk, the arts programme is an intensely thrilling end in itself. Bands tend to play it safe at festivals with a greatest hits set. Performance companies, perhaps because they’re less likely to be preaching to the converted, are more inclined to try something daring.

Among the hippest new theatre work premiering this weekend across Latitude’s various stages (one of them waterbound, another in the back of a VW camper) is the playwriting debut from UK rapper Kate Tempest. This curly-haired 25-year-old, who started out performing ferocious rhymes at South London squat parties, has released a poetry album on Pure Groove and is admired by the likes of Roots Manuva, Scroobius Pip and the Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA (who she met backstage at a gig after rapping her way past the bouncers).

Specially commissioned for a festival audience, Wasted is pitched as a day-glo trip through the parks, raves and cafes of South London. And it’s not the only hip hop-influenced piece on offer. Top international dance house Sadler’s Wells will also be presenting an extract from Some Like It Hip Hop, ZooNation’s comic riff on Billy Wilder’s ‘50s comedy and Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ and their first full-length production since the West End’s longest-running dance show, Into The Hoods. (Sadler’s Wells’ summer show, the multi-award winning Afrobeat musical Fela!, will also get an outing with the Olivier Award-nominated Sahr Ngaujah returning to the role of Nigerian artist and activist Fela Kuti).

On a more gothic (and, if their previous shows are anything to go by, decidedly more silly) tip, physical comedy trios Spymonkey and Peepolykus are teaming up with artistic director Sean Holmes and writer Joel Horwood of the Lyric theatre to present a chaotic new take on a Robert Louis Stevenson classic. The show is called Jekyll And Hyde (ish) and is designed, say Spymonkey, to ‘go down very well at 1am with a pint of cider’ (you can watch a rehearsal video here).

Other notables include a chance to catch cutting-edge theatre company 1927’s The Animals And Children Took To The Streets, a stylish and darkly quirky synthesis of live music, animation and storytelling that’s been described as ‘Alexander Rodchenko meets Tim Burton’; a stage turn by Hogwarts’ caretaker Argus Filch (better known outside the Harry Potter films as Olivier Award-winning actor David Bradley) in one-man play On The Harmful Effects Of Tobacco/Can Cause Death; and the National Theatre of Scotland’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, a pub-set spin on the devilishly sexy Border Ballads in which the five actor-musicians fuse Ceilidh music with Kylie Monogue karaoke.


Best of the Rest

  • At most British festivals, the mud is an unwelcome side-show. At The Boryeong Mud Festival, which takes place from Saturday to July 24 in South Korea, it’s the main event. Activities include everything from mud painting to mud skiing competitions, though top of the itinerary is just sitting about semi-naked in the stuff.
  • The music line-up of the week has definitely been nailed by Chicago’s Pitchfork Festival (Friday to Sunday), including the trendy but transcendently brilliant likes of TV On The Radio, Battles, Animal Collective and rising queen of slo-mo grunge, EMA.
  • Gion Matsuri, one of the oldest and biggest festivals in Japan, culminates in a grand procession on Sunday. What started out as a ritual to appease the earthquake-happy deities is now a great excuse to eat barbecued chicken while 32 beautifully intricate floats (some two-storeys high) process through downtown Kyoto.
  • BOOK NOW! Tickets go on sale this Thursday for the West End transfer of Nicholas Hytner’s five-star production One Man, Two Guvnors, in which Gavin And Stacey star James Corden has been yomming up critical praise as the permanently ravenous sacked skiffle player caught between two bosses in ’60s gangland Brighton.

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