“Sitting in a dark, near silent room at the very end of the last night with a thrumming scale of notes accompanying one man, talking at me for 90 minutes.”
Not the response you’d expect to get from asking me what my highlight of Latitude 2013 was. And not the response I’d expected to give either. But you can forget your Kraftwerks and James Blakes and Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs (though they were all excellent).
This year, Latitude belonged to Daniel Kitson.
Literally. I think he might have had shares in it. He was everywhere. Performing six times in different ways on different days, this stand-up-like-no-other almost passed me by. Until 11.30pm on Sunday night rolled around and – tired but content – I followed the herd over to the Outdoor Theatre.
I’d heard little about Kitson before this; my friends raved about him but I was pretty much oblivious to his work, words and humour. Turned out it was the perfect place to Feed.
The show itself was mind-boggling. Just him, sat in front of a laptop, ruminating with hypnotic intensity, overthinking to a ridiculous degree and finding the hilarious in the most mundane. It was sharp, smart and as dry as the cracked, dusty earth beneath our feet.
But the show was just the start of my journey. Because just as Kitson’s mind wandered irresistibly through his performance, so too his performance sparked my own mind a-wandering and a-wondering, about the nature of performance itself.
I was lucky enough to sample some real treats from the Latitude spread, tucking into comedy, poetry and literature morsels around my hearty main music meal. Watching how different comedians, authors and poets performed their work served to showcase not just the power of their words, but the power of their of delivery.
And yes, sometimes this power was visceral, like the thundering, animated and energetic enthusiasm of Laura Dockrill, surging life into her captivating story about an octopus falling in love, or the bold, brash, brilliance that had Luke Wright on his knees bawling out ‘Bloody Hell it’s Barbara’. Performers like Luke and Laura left audiences’ jaws slack and their hands clapping hard and fast, as every word the performers spoke punched deep and drew breath.
But sometimes, this power was subtle and discreet, creeping inside without you knowing, so at the last minute your knees began to tremble at the sheer brilliance of what you were hearing. That’s where Daniel Kitson left me. And Nathan Filer – whose extracts from his book The Shock of the Fall induced that intense quiet from his audience that only comes from true awe.
Both ends of the performance spectrum are amazing in equal measure: from the rapturous applause that meets a performer who gives their all on stage, bouncing pure, palpable life off the walls (or tent fabric), to the stunned standing-ovation giving silhouettes, silent for a second before clapping, unsure how to even process the brilliance they have witnessed.
So different, but so similar in one fundamental way.
The words these writers have crafted would be nothing if they weren’t performed the way they were performed. You couldn’t bounce your way though Daniel Kitson, just as you couldn’t sit down and mumble your way through a Luke Wright poem. The right performance, the right context, the right delivery, brings words to life.
I’ve definitely taken something away from that.
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