Festival season looms and right now our thoughts are on those endless summer days losing your shit in a field soundtracked by your favourite acts. But it’s not just music on offer at our nation’s festivals, each year British fests are rolling out increasingly more intensive arts and theatre line-ups to lend a joyful artsy-fartsy injection to the mischief and mayhem. Here’s our pick of the 5 best arts and theatre programmes at 2016’s finest festivals.
Latitude’s theme is Love Thy Neighbour, one that couldn’t be more important in this time of social outrage and turmoil. “I will be looking to explore what it really means to have an understanding and relate to others” explains Tania Harrison, Latitude’s Curator of the Arts. “It’s about breaking boundaries for the greater good.”
Opening the festival on the Thursday night will be CIRCA, the Australian contemporary circus company, with their acrobatic opera, Il Ritorno, a mixture of high-flying action and Monteverdi’s operatic music. Joining them in the Theatre Arena are Lee Simpson’s Improbable with their improvised puppet show, Animo.
Mark Thomas, completing his trilogy of work with Red Shed. And The Lyric Hammersmith with a version of The Importance of Being Earnest starring Mel Giedroyc from the Great British Bake off. The Theatre Arena will also be hosting Liam Williams with his company Fight in the Dog who will be using comedians to put their own spin on Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Hoi Polloi’s Shôn Dale-Jones performing The Duke, a very personal performace about changing perspectives and also a show raising money for Save the Children.
Pandora’s Playground will be full of wonder with Les Enfants Terribles’ new offering The Fantastical Fly Exploratory Laboratory, a show that runs parallel with their piece Menagerie, first performed at Latitude a couple years ago. Oliver Lansley, one of the two Artistic Directors said “It’s a safe environment to take risks.” This is alongside their usual program of poetry, spoken word and obviously…the music!
Latitude Festival, Suffolk, Thursday 14th- Sunday 17th July, more information here
Citadel 2016 boasts a one-off performance by Sigur Rós, but it also has some fantastic new work by Old Vic New Voices, a company known for nurturing fresh new talent within the theatre scene, along with Les Femme Circus, an all female circus group that merge circus skills with theatre to create one of a kind performances. London’s favourite LOL-fest, Underbelly will be hosting the comedy tent with names yet to be announced. New for 2016, The Meadow Stage brings a series of immersive theatre and eccentric pop-up performances to the proceedings.
Citadel, London, Sunday 17th July, more information here
Secret Garden Party
Little has been released about the Secret Garden Party (that’s probably something to do with it’s name…) but if previous years are anything to go by, expect a chilled atmosphere with lot’s of fantastical immersive treats. This one is for those who want to relax and discover little shows along the way. There’s also their massive paint fight along with The Labrynth and The Lost Woods to explore. Oh, and the theme this year is ‘The Gardeners Guide to the Galaxy’ so expect, space, depressed robots and don’t forget to bring a towel!
Secret Garden Party, Cambridgeshire, Tuesday 21st- Friday 24th July, more information here
Wilderness is known for eclectic music and now for some great theatre and they’ve really outdone themselves this year by adding a purpose built theatre ‘The Playhouse‘ to the set-up. Collaborating with The Young Vic to provide script workshops there will also be a mix of shows and comedians to suit most tastes. Not only that, but Rambert Dance company will be performing as well as pieces from The Arcola Thetare, Old Vic New Voices and the amazing Dinosaur Park from the fantastic Superbolt Theatre (a must see if you missed it in Edinburgh or London).
Wilderness Festival, Oxfordshire, Thursday 4th- Sunday 7th August, more information here
If you are a festival purist and still consider festivals to be about the music, then Bestival has just the right amount of ‘something else’ to let you dip your toes in the theatrical water. They will have their usual carnival day parade and the fancy dress theme for the weekend (this year it’s : The Future) but there’s also Cirque Bijou to amaze and delight with their aerial antics and comical capers and if that excites you, then head over to Lucha Vavoom and watch some high-flying Mexican style wrestling.
One things for sure, the idea of going to a festival just for the music isn’t as strong as it once was. People are enjoying the plethora of opportunities offered at festivals and it’s up to the organisers to create them for the punters. So go on! What are you waiting for? Let’s get our Art on this summer!
Bestival, Isle of Wight, Thursday 8th- Sunday 11th September, more information here