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Latitude: We’re coming for you

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We can’t quite believe it but apparently it’s that time of year again. It’s time for Latitude. We’re enormously pleased WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK by Sabrina Mahfouz is returning to the site of its debut last year.

This year you can catch us at the Film and Music Arena on Friday 15 July at 8:25pm. We’ll be grooving out to some old school garage and hope you can join us. Full info is here.

As usual there’s loads of other incredible acts on at Latitude including some great theatre here.

Can’t make it to Latitude this year? Don’t worry we’ve got another WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK performance for you. We’re part of a fantastic weekend Latitude are curating outside National Theatre on the South Bank. From 5 -7 August Latitude take over River Stage outside NT. You can wander over anytime but if you want to catch us we’re headlining Saturday night at 9:25pm. We’re going to close the evening with the garage rave it deserves.

Check out all the other amazing River Stage acts here.

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With a little bit of Latitude

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Elated, inspired and a little bleary-eyed we’re back from magical Henham Park and another mind-expanding, heart-lifting Latitude Festival.

Our Latitude co-production WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK by wizard wordsmith Sabrina Mahfouz packed out the Theatre Tent on Thursday and Friday nights and had audiences on their feet and dancing in the aisles to Gabriel Benn’s piano riffs and Martyna Baker’s honeyed vocals as Seroca Davis led a merry charge through one wild night at the height of the UK Garage era.

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To all of you who came and watched and listened and cheered and whistled and raved – both inside the tent and on the big screen outside – a heartfelt thank you from all of us. You were the most incredible audience and you created an atmosphere we’ll remember and savour for a long time.

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Here’s a round-up of some of the lovely responses from the critics and the Twittersphere…

“Fist-pumping euphoria… one of the highlights of Latitude’s sun-stroked 10th anniversary festival… crackle[s] with a rare and unexpected life.”
The Stage

“Highlights of the myriad events on offer included Sabrina Mahfouz’s With A Little Bit Of Luck… the crowd dancing, singing and cheering the whole show.”
Whatsonstage.com

“The same fizzing energy of the best club nights… marks Mahfouz out as a unique theatrical voice.”
The Public Reviews

“A dark and joyful swirl of garage music and South London rhythms.”
@SarahLooseleaf

“Danced happily & proudly whilst watching #WithALittleBitOfLuck @LatitudeFest My youth came rushing back to me…..”
@therealcginge

“Our theme tune for a magical #Latitude15? “With A Little Bit of Luck”. What a tune, what an evening. That tent was ALIVE!”
@oldtrunktheatre

“Absolutely loved @painesplough #WithALittleBitOfLuck at @LatitudeFest – undeniably one of my festival highlights!”
@avpegrum

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Top photographer Richard Davenport was in amongst the action to capture the scene. You can check out his gallery of photos over on our Flickr Stream.

So what next? Well, with a little bit of luck the show might just be back in 2016…

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WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK: A New Play by Sabrina Mahfouz

We’re absolutely thrilled to announce the next show to be added to PP’s programme for 2015 is a new play by award winning playwright and performance poet Sabrina Mahfouz. Directed by our Associate Director Stef O’Driscoll in a co-production with our firm favourites and great friends Latitude Festival, WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK will première in the theatre tent at Latitude, July 2015. See you there.

I want to be iconic. I want to be beautiful, reckless, feared, hated, ahead of the times. I want to be different, I want to be dangerous…

London, 2001. Raves. Revision. Re-election.

Nadia is swept up in one hot summer’s night of love that promises endless possibilities. Drinking, dancing, hope, ambition, lust, greed… and decisions that will determine the rest of her life.

Rhythmically underscored by a live mix of old school UK Garage, award-winning writer Sabrina Mahfouz explores the legacy of a cultural movement that defined the hopes of a generation.

London, 2015. Re-wind.

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Highlights: PP at Latitude 2014

Let’s be honest – we were off to a shaky start. Panic slowly started to overtake camp as Producers everywhere frantically held their phones in all manner of positions in an attempt to obtain signal. We quickly realised that we would just have to resort to old school methods of communication and any plans to work that weekend (ha!) just had to be forgotten.

What a shame.

We then geared up to face our true adversaries: mosquitoes. My legs are living proof that the war that raged between Man and Mosquito was not without its casualties… But  spurred on with the promise of back up on its way (in the form of insect repellent) it wasn’t long before Latitude’s magic began to take over, and as glitter was donned and sprinkled and more or less bathed in, our first world problems began to fade away…

So – collectively – we give you, our LATITUDE 2014 experience.

Hopelessly Devoted –  Thursday night kicked off  in the Theatre Tent with our production of Kate Tempest’s HOPELESSLY DEVOTED officially opening the festival. As always, nowhere will you find a theatre audience quite like a Latitude crowd – and the cast, creatives and the PP Team as a whole only had to feed off their incredible energy and good vibes to get off to a good start. A what a start it was.

Booker T and the MG’s – Hearing the legendary Green Onions in the sunshine with a cold cider in hand was a glorious moment only to be topped by Booker T’s cover of Jimi Hendrix’s famous track Hey Joe. A definite tick box moment.

Hollie Cook v Guilty Pleasures – Team PP was divided on Friday night as some danced the night away to the all too familiar cheesy classics in the comedy tent. As half the team screamed at the top of their lungs to the parts they knew of Bon Jovi’s ”Livin’ On A Prayer”, the rest found solace in the form of dub reggae singer Hollie Cook and skanked the night away.

James Grieve’s Camp Fires- Each night, whether rain or shine, armed with sheer determination the PP camp ended its evenings with a camp-fire made by the hands of Paines Plough’s very own Bear Grylls. By the final evening , with the help of some firelighters, the fire was up and running in record time.

Kate Tempest - This gig was off the chain. PP held the fort in front of the left-hand speaker and skanked out hard to Kate’s solo album Everybody Down.  The energy and heart smacked us in the face as we watched a group of ridiculously talented musicians do what they love. If you haven’t heard this album yet, what’s going on? It came out on Big Dada Records in May, so – and our bias aside – we unreservedly recommend it.

Kelis – Wow. This talented lady’s bluesy tones were spell-binding. With a mixture of her popular songs including a more calypso version of Milkshake alongside new tracks of her album Food, Kelis’s set was effortless.

Kids Area –  Whether you have kids or you are just a big kid yourself there was plenty of fun to be had in the Kids Area. Highlights included making our own willow head dresses at the marvelous Spinney Hollow and having maybe a bit too much fun on the Helter Skelter.  (A word of advice to future Latituders – you’re never too old. Never).

Kwabs  Another musical highlight (props to Tom, music recommender extraordinaire). With a voice both technically and emotionally impressive, it was one of those rare moments of witnessing a beautiful old soul shining through a young body. He smashed it – and certainly gained loyal fans in us.  

Nils Frahm – Sunday started with impish German ivory tinkler Nils Frahm taking to the sylvan i-Arena stage. “This is my first gig in the English forest,” he says, before displacing woodland animals for miles around with distorted bass that judders through the subs and gives everyone face palpitations. The hauntingly beautiful piano music combined with heavy synthesiser sounds was magical as we sat in the sun for a whole 45 minutes without saying anything…Well, until I informed everyone I could feel the bass in my face.

MJ Cole – The festival ended on a high as MJ Cole played us out to some of the best old school garage we’d heard in a long time.  None of that commercial “I’ll bring you flowers in the pouring rain” business. PP raved in our usual spot and this highlight may be responsible for Bene’s current knee injury. Has she gone to the doctors yet?

In summary:

Wow. 

Yet another extraordinary, inspiring, magical weekend at Latitude, and after a couple of days back in the office, there definitely has been an influx of new acts added to the PP Spotify playlist.

 

Thank you Latitude.

Same time next year?

Claire’s farewell for now…

Well, this is even harder than I thought…my official ‘farewell Paines Plough’ blog.

Summing up how brilliant and varied my time here has been, in just a few words is hard to do.  After first hearing about Paines Plough at University I’ve always wanted to work for the company and fulfilling this ambition has been far more enjoyable and educational than I could have hoped.  Since arriving bright eyed and bushy tailed in November 2010 I’ve had the pleasure to do all of this and much more:

19 productions
1 mega Arts Council NPO application
11 sets of management accounts
3 Christmas parties

1 Latitude Festival
countless miles on trains all over the UK
2 Roundabout seasons
…and eaten 5 times my body weight in cake (sometimes those 4 flights of stairs are a blessing!)

I’ve been genuinely privileged to have worked with a host of wonderfully talented and brilliant people from the Board to designers, actors and stage managers to producers and administrators.  At the helm of all this brilliance are the two most passionate, inspiring and visionary people that I have had the pleasure of working with: James Grieve and George Perrin.  You can’t help but want to do your absolute best and work as hard as possible when you’re playing a part in bringing to life the innovative work that they strive to produce.

Of course I’ve also been lucky enough to spend my working days with other such awesome people as Tara, Hanna, Natalie and Sean.  It’s a total cliché but also very true that it’s like a family; and that’s why it’s so much harder to leave.  There have been lots of tears in the last couple of weeks!

Now it’s time for new pastures though and I’m very excited to be working with the Community and Education Company at the Belgrade Theatre, continuing to create exciting and relevant new work with and for the communities of Coventry.  I’ll be keeping a keen eye on what Paines Plough gets up to next, from up in the Midlands.

Thank you to everyone who has made my time with Paines Plough so memorable and enjoyable. It’s a small world and I hope to see or work with you again very soon.

The story behind EVERY BRILLIANT THING – Part 1

The way Duncan tells it, EVERY BRILLIANT THING began as a favour.

Rosie, an actress in his first play, came up to him on their final night. She was in two scenes but had no lines and was required to keep her back to the audience. After the performance, she took his face in her hands and said:

‘You owe me.’

A few months later he was invited to write a short play for The Miniaturists and it seemed like a good opportunity to repay the favour. He wrote her a monologue. Having been in a play where she said nothing, she was now able to stand on stage and talk constantly for fifteen minutes which, knowing Rosie, suited her much better.

The monologue he wrote, entitled SLEEVE NOTES, is a short story about a young girl who makes a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world as an attempt to combat her mother’s depression.

1.       Ice cream

2.       Rollercoasters

3.       Staying up past your bedtime and being allowed to watch TV

4.       People falling over

5.       Banana slides

6.       Water fights

As the girl grows up, so does the list. It takes on a life of its own, other people start adding to it, writing in the margins, making amendments, providing footnotes. The purpose of the list is forgotten and her mother’s depression doesn’t go away. Eventually, as a grown woman, she reaches her self-imposed target of one million entries.

She calls the list ‘Every Brilliant Thing’.

People who heard Rosie read the monologue enjoyed it greatly and so over the next few months, she was asked to perform it again and again at different theatres.

A little while after that, Duncan was invited by Paines Plough to perform something he’d written as part of LATER, which was a monthly event conceived by Mark Ravenhill, where playwrights would read or perform their own work. Duncan decided to read SLEEVE NOTES, and set about changing anything gender specific and making the list in the story feel a bit more macho.

3675. Shoes

became

3675. Marlon Brando

I heard Duncan perform SLEEVE NOTES and asked him to do it again at SHORTS – an event James and I used to run for nabokov at the Old Red Lion. I really liked how he performed it. It felt honest. Autobiographical maybe. Despite not particularly having enjoyed the experience of performing it the first time round, he reluctantly relented and agreed.

I noticed once more how the simplicity, warmth and hope of the story moved people.

A year or so later people still mentioned the story to me. How it had stayed with them. How it had gently changed the way they viewed things. Duncan and I met for coffee and between us we dreamt up the idea of actually making the list in the story. From scratch. Something that, like in the story, anyone could add to and share.

Unsure of exactly where to begin, we stared a Facebook group in the hope of reaching out to those who already knew the story to help us populate the real life list. Within hours contributions started flying in.

101. Massages

102. Late night text conversations

103. Inappropriate songs played at emotional moments

The group continued to grow and within a few months we had several hundred members and nearly a thousand entries.

We took SLEEVE NOTES to a festival in Brick Lane and to the Innocent Village Fete in Regents Park where it was read by Gugu Mbatha Raw while children hung their contributions on the branches of ‘The Tree of Every Brilliant Thing’.

2571. Hugs and laughing til your tummy hurts

2572. Seashells

We saved all the contributions in a huge card board box and added them to the Facebook Group. We loved the idea of the list existing physically as well as digitally – something you could look at, hold in your hands, walk around.

So we enlisted designers Paul Burgess and Simon Daw and set up what Paul called a ‘voluntary sweatshop’. We began to transpose the digital entries from Facebook on to paper, using backs of envelopes, post-it notes, newspaper cuttings, receipts, cardboard, beer-mats, whatever we could get our hands on. We installed our list like an exhibition in one of the huge arches in Village Underground in Shoreditch for the nabokov Arts Club – thousands and thousands of entries;

3263. Telephones with a rotary dial rather than push buttons

3346. Getting a mix tape

3376. Columbo

nabokov’s Producer at the time Davina Shah had managed to source a load of old cassette Walkmans and we had recorded hundreds of people reading SLEEVE NOTES as well as a companion piece we commissioned Gary Owen to write called KILL JOY. Whereas SLEEVE NOTES was a child’s perspective on a parent struggling with depression, KILL JOY was  a story about a young child written through the eyes of a depressed parent. As you walked around the installation you would listen to one story on side A then turn the tape over and listen to the other on side B. At the end you could add your own entries to the list which began to grow out of the arch as the evening went on. At some point in the evening the music from the next arch got so loud that it drowned out the headphones. So I managed to persuade Duncan to get up on stage and perform SLEEVE NOTES one last time. 500 people stopped dancing, and almost as one, quietly sat down on the floor to listen.

Duncan reads SLEEVE NOTES at the nabokov Arts Club

The following year, Tania Harrison invited nabokov to take the exhibition to the Latitude Festival. This time we had our own tent in which we set up the installation. Our Stage Manager Kirsten Turner, along with some help from willing volunteers Hannah Scott and Camilla Kinchin, spent the weekend rallying people to come and perform SLEEVE NOTES inside the tent. We had set it up so that someone different would read the story every fifteen minutes or so, for four days straight. As well as actors Sian Clifford, Tom Cullen, Clare Dunne, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Ferdy Roberts and Craig Gazey amongst others, we also tempted comedians Ed Byrne and Frank Skinner to do a shift. But for a last minute intervention, we would have had Jarvis Cocker up there too.

This was where the life of the exhibition ended, though the Facebook group continued to grow.

3545. Untangling things

But still the project itself hung in the air. I went to stay with a GP friend in Wales who told me how it had changed her perspective and how much good she thought it could do for others. Another friend who at the time was a parliamentary consultant for the Royal College of Psychiatrists spoke passionately to me about how helpful it could be to run it at one of the party conferences to raise awareness for mental health charities. We were approached by the people who run World Mental Health day too. We never intended it to, but it had managed to speak quite eloquently but in a very gentle way about the connections between perception and mental well-being.

But more than any potential political impact was the feeling we had something positively contagious that more people should come in to contact with. The Facebook group continued apace, gathering followers and contributions from around the world.

So last year, during the London run of Duncan’s play LUNGS, we picked up the conversation once again. We wondered what the evolution of the project would be and how Paines Plough, as well as other companies, might facilitate the next step of the journey.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan

We’re thrilled to announce that the sixth production of Programme 2013 is EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan.

You’re six years old. Mum’s in hospital. Dad says she’s ‘done something stupid’. She finds it hard to be happy. You start to make a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world. Everything that’s worth living for.

1. Ice cream
2. Kung Fu movies
3. Burning things
4. Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose
5. Construction cranes
6. Me

You leave it on her pillow. You know she’s read it because she’s corrected your spelling. Soon, the list will take on a life of its own.

Based on true and untrue stories.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING is the culmination of a project that Duncan began several years ago with Paines Plough Joint Artistic Director George. It has in various forms existed as a monologue, an exhibition and a FaceBook group and has evolved with the input of thousands of people at the nabokov Arts Club, Innocent Village Fete, Latitude Festival and online.

With our friends at Pentabus, Jersey Arts Trust and nabokov we’re bringing the full story behind Duncan’s incredible project to the stage with two exclusive preview performances this summer before a full national tour in 2014.

For more information about the show visit the production page on our website: http://www.painesplough.com/current-programme/by-date/every-brilliant-thing

 

Roundabout throughout history

With our Roundabout Season at Shoreditch Town Hall coming to a close last weekend, and our prototype auditorium taking its bow, we’re getting super excited about the future as we move to the next phase of fundraising and planning in pursuit of creating our dream theatre – a fully self-contained portable, demountable Roundabout Auditorium.

We’ll write a blog about our plans for Roundabout Phase 3 soon. But first, the past.

Over the last few weeks we’ve often been asked what inspired us to build The Roundabout Auditorium, and what it is about theatre-in-the-round that excites us.

We ran some workshops we ran for The Actor’s Guild, and we were energised by the enthusiasm the space engendered in the actors. Some common themes emerged, so we wanted to write about the reasons why we think the round is the most exciting theatrical configuration of all.

And we wanted to write about the history of in-the-round and touring auditoria. Sitting in a circle to listen is ingrained in us. From cavemen sitting around campfires telling stories, to forming story circles in Primary School. It’s part of who we are. A cornerstone of our human society.

Storytelling was developed into theatre by a guy called Thespis, who has lent his name to thespians ever since. He toured around in a cart from which he performed monologues in open spaces where audiences would gather to watch. So touring existed long before building based theatre. The first theatre structure built in Athens employed temporary wooden seating surrounding a stage in a market square. Sounds familiar!

An artist's impression of The Odeon Of Pericles - the first indoor in-the-round theatre.

The first documented indoor theatre is The Odeon Of Pericles, which dates from 440BC. It was a square, but with seating on all four walls and a performance area in the centre. In 300BC The Theatre Of Dionysus was built from stone cut into a hillside with seating in a horseshoe shape around the stage, and became the predominant model for theatre architecture for the ensuing 500 years across the Greco-Roman world.

Fast forward to the Middle Ages and across the English Channel to dear old Blighty where, in the Middle Ages, a penchant for morality plays started a trend for in-the-round auditoria in market squares, visited by touring players in pageant wagons.

Gradually, across the world, as technology advanced and sets became more ornate, theatre became more of a spectacle and less of a communal, social, experience. Along came the proscenium arch, and stage lighting to illuminate the players and keep the audience in the dark. Then came cinema, and television. For our culture and our entertainment, we all sat and faced the same way. We became end-on.

So in a digital age, sitting in a circle seems almost radical. No-one is told to sit still and face front. It’s a communal experience, a social experience, a democratic experience. Everyone is involved. Even if you turn the house lights out, you can still see the people opposite you.

Here at PP we’re attracted to plays that are innately theatrical, that embrace theatre as a unique art form. You can’t watch a film in the round, or TV. You can’t watch a stand-up gig in the round without the stand-up getting very dizzy. You can’t (generally) watch a gig in the round (unless you’re plaanning to see the new Keane tour). In-the-round is innately theatrical.

And it seems to us to be the most exhilarating way to make theatre. Stripped bare, exposed. There’s no fourth wall, the actors and the audience inhabit the same space. As the playwright Simon Stephens says, “There is no theatrical architecture that challenges or interrogates what it is to be a human being more than theatre in-the-round.” And that seems true of both the work on stage and the audience around it, because the audience are inescapably *in* the action, not just observing it.

We’ve always been attracted to working in-the-round. Our joint AD James, and Roundabout Auditorium designer Lucy Osborne, first worked together on ARTEFACTS by Mike Bartlett at the old Bush theatre in 2008. Faced with the famous old steep-banked L-shaped auditorium, they ripped out the seats and for the first time in its history, put The Bush in-the-round; then reconfigured theatres around the country and in New York when Artefacts went on tour. Our other joint AD George grew up in Manchester on a staple diet of in-the-round theatre at the 800-seat Royal Exchange, where no single seat is further than 10 metres from centre stage.

The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

But George is amongst the lucky ones. Despite theatre in-the-round having undergone a renaissance since Stephen Joseph founded the temporary space the Vic in Stoke and built the UK’s first permanent in-the-round space in 1955 in Scarborough, there are only six purpose-built in-the-round theatres in the country today. So very few people have had the opportunity to experience theatre in this exciting way. Alongside Manchester and The Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough there’s The Octagon in Bolton, The New Vic in Stoke, The Orange Tree in Richmond and The Cockpit in Marylebone.

One of the most exciting aspects of creating Roundabout was the prospect of giving people the chance to see theatre in-the-round for the first time, even though the configuration is as old as theatre itself. Forget the IMAX. Theatre in-the-round is the original and best 3D experience, no silly glasses required.

Alongside the ancient traditions of touring in-the-round, there have also been more contemporary stimuli. Founding Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange Michael Elliot, when explaining the rationale behind the construction of the in-the-round theatre within a much larger hall, spoke of a belief that theatre buildings should have obsolescence built in to them. So after the Arndale bombing left The Royal Exchange homeless in 1996, they built a replica of their theatre and toured it. The RSC did the same with a portable structure that popped up around the UK. Later The RSC built the RoundYard in The Roundhouse, and last year a replica of their Stratford home in Manhattan. For the past seven years, Paines Plough has been producing work at the Latitude Festival in pop-up structures, one year in-the-round. The pop-up seems to have its own energy, its own excitement. And we’re not the only ones who think so. Check out Kneehigh’s wonderful nomadic pop-up tent The Asylum, modern in its conception but rooted in the idea of circus, troubadour and folk traditions. Or Chichester Festival Theatre’s Theatre-On-The-Fly. We can’t wait for The National Theatre’s new pop-up The Shed, opening in Spring 2013.

Kneehigh's awesome The Asylum

We were inspired by productions too. For The Royal Court’s 2009 production of COCK by Mike Bartlett, director James MacDonald and designer Miriam Beuther created a cock-fighting arena in The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs. With the play stipulating no set and no props be used in the production, the energy created in the miniature round was thrilling. This was theatre as sport.

And as inveterate sports fans, we’ve been inspired by all manner of sporting arena, from the Colosseum in Rome with its steeped banks and vomitories housing lions, to the Nou Camp in Barcelona. Our most dramatic sports are all performed in the round. The best stadia are designed like cauldrons, with all the heat on the field of play. The pitch at the Nou Camp is below ground level, so the stadium looks modest from the outside, but when the crowd enters from street level to find themselves on the rim of a gigantic bowl, the affect is breathtaking (which is why you enter the Roundabout from the top, and look down on the stage).

The Colosseum - both theatre and sporting arena.

Theatre in-the-round demands combatative playing, attack, sport. We reckon these are really positive dramatic qualities. Actors often talk about what a character is “doing” to another in any given moment. The technique of actioning attributes physically active verbs to each line of a text – to slap, to punch, to jab. Like boxing. Theresa Heskins, expert Artistic Director of Stoke’s New Vic says “keep things moving; the round loves action, words are action and the pause is the enemy.” Dennis Kelly talks of lines as weapons.

We love the round, and the kind of work the round demands. That and our desire to find new ways to tour work to as many places around the UK as possible all combined to form the idea for The Roundabout Auditorium. The auditorium will pop-up across the country anywhere from existing theatres to school halls and village halls, community and sports centres, warehouses and even parks. In it we’ll present work especially created for the round, to give people everywhere the chance to experience – in many cases for the first time – this most ancient and thrilling of theatrical configurations.

Lucy Osborne's design for The Roundabout Auditorium

Muddied but unbowed: Latitude 2012

Our kitchens look like chinese laundries, our mud splattered wellies perch on plastic bags in hallways, our legs feel like lead, our heads like cotton wool. It can only mean one thing – we’ve been Latituded.

It’s our favourite weekend of the year bar none, and now the tents have been dismantled for another year, we’re back at PP HQ reflecting on another vintage festival.

Team PP assembled in Suffolk on Thursday. With THE 8TH in Birmingham the previous night, the creative team travelled rock ‘n’ roll style with the artists in Paul Heaton’s tour bus, while the office disgorged into trains and cars and buses, weighed down by rucksacks jammed with pillows and rum and crisps.

Having pitched PP Camp in our usual spot in a glade of the lovely Henham Park forest, it was straight to The Film & Music Arena for tech rehearsals for THE 8TH. It’s always an exciting few hours before the Arena opens to the public – stallholders prepping their wares, wafts of music from multiple soundchecks, anticipation in the air. THE 8TH’s band tuned up, Reg roared his opening lines into the mic, the singers stepped up to stretch their vocal chords, Tim waved his wand at the lighting rig, Bernd frantically searched for a drill.

Tech done, and the gates to the Arena about to be opened, we beat a retreat backstage and waited for showtime.

THE 8TH from backstage at The Film & Music Arena

For six consecutive years, Paines Plough has appeared in the Theatre Tent (in its various guises), so it was a new and exciting experience to be performing in the Film & Music Arena for the first time in 2012. Thursday night is a brilliant night for theatre, because none of the music stages are opened until Friday, so the Arts stages are all packed with eager punters seeking their first festival fix.

Reg and the gang were on top form, bringing the curtain down on the tour with a rabble-rousing performance, roared on by a jammed to capacity tent head-bopping and yowling approval. “It’s my first rock ‘n’ roll tour,” grins Reg afterwards as celebratory beers are cracked. Huge thanks to everyone who came to see us, you were an incredible crowd.

No festival fun for the band and singers, they’re straight back on the tour bus and off into the night. Team PP heads to the theatre tent to cheer nabokov’s brilliant SYMPHONY before heading to the woods to dance idiotically to Dermot O’Leary‘s deliciously retro indie disco set.

With THE 8TH done and dusted, the whole weekend stretched out ahead of us, ripe for the revelling. Kate Tempest’s stunning BRAND NEW ANCIENTS has everyone on their feet for a raucous standing ovation in the theatre tent. There’s more theatrical delights from Tangled Feet and Rash Dash, a smorgasboard of poetics in the poetry tent and a great Latitude moment on the Lake Stage as the sun makes a hesitant appearance just as Clock Opera walk on stage for an imperious set. Our excitement at Bon Iver was a little pre-emptory. He wasn’t very good. We were sad.

The Latitude crowd packing out the tent for THE 8TH

Saturday offers up Luke Wright’s epic poem The Vile Ascent Of Lucien Gore And What The People Did in the outdoor theatre – one of our highlights from last year and the same again this. In the literary arena we heard PP alumni Abi Morgan in conversation with Edith Bowman, praising Kate Tempest‘s show as a reminder of how exciting live theatre can be. Also a great quote: “For a writer there’s nothing better than the moment you press send on the first draft.” Look Left Look Right bestowed not one but four new musicals to much hilarity, and Jimmy McGhie‘s wry observational anecdotes were much to our liking in the comedy arena, as was the wildly-inappropriate-and-all-the-funnier-for-it Lee Nelson. We couldn’t see Subtrkt because he’s a man of mystery, but he sounded great. Los Campesinos struck a blow for the liberation of fun by continuing their  set acoustically when someone officious pulled the plug on them, and Guy Garvey showed Bon Iver how it’s done with a barnstorming headline set. “So throw those curtains wide! One day like this a year’d see me right!” And so it would. Especially if it continued with arm-flailing dancing to Guilty Pleasures, a sensational DJ set from Shy FX and our legendary Car Park Disco until sunrise. Or in this instance until some jobsworth security guards shut us down. Boo. Hiss.

Bernd (in the hat) watching Reg from backstage

Sunday comes too soon at Latitude. It always does. But what’s this orange ball in the sky? Should we be worried? No, we should buy cider and sit on the grass and listen to Ben Howard. That’s what we should do. Matthew Bourne on the lake, Daughter in the woods, a sensory out-of-body experience in Curious Directive’s enchanting Olfactory…a bounty of epicurean delights. Alabama Shakes got us shaking, Buena Vista Social Club proved we can still be shaking when we’re 70, and Wild Beasts smashed it in the Word Arena. Off to the woods for a final jig to Norman Jay, then the traditional bop in the Performer’s Bar to bring down the curtain on another magical mystery tour through the enchanted fields and forests of Henham Park.

And so the sad trudge to the car on Monday morning, sleep deprived and malnourished, resplendent in damp clothes from the Mud by Jackson Pollock range and fearing the onset of trench foot. The A12 is at a standstill. It’s raining apologetically. There is glitter absolutely everywhere. Has anyone got any nurofen?

All hail Latitude. The greatest festival in the world. Thank you to all who sailed in her. We loved performing for you, we loved partying with you, we miss your glittered faces and ludicrous head gear. We are counting down the days uintil we commune with you again.

And meantime, you can reminisce with our Latitude Spotify Playlist or buy THE 8TH album, or leave a comment to tell us your Latitude tales.

Latitude Survival Guide

Hmm... it's not looking promising

Undaunted by record-breaking summer rainfalls, we’re pulling on our wellies, donning shades and sou’westers and pumping up the volume on our Spotify playlist in preparation for Paines Plough’s sixth consecutive Latitude Festival appearance.

Whereas our weekly Tuesday morning company meetings are generally spent discussing production updates or budgets or tour schedules, this week we gave Latitude virgins Mark and Sarah a shopping list to ensure they’re fully kitted out for their Latitude debut.

And as hardened veterans, we thought we’d share our insights with you too, in case you need some assistance in planning what to pack. Just collate the following items, and you’ll be all set up for the best weekend of your lives:

1. Tent (obvs)
2. Wellies (really quite essential this year)
3. All manner of waterprooofs
4. Thermals
5. Nurofen
6. Hand sanitizer (we’re sticklers for hygeine)
7. Beer
8. Bottled water (in case you run out of beer and need hydrating)
9. Cherry tomatoes (bite sized nutrition)
10. Babybel cheeses (snackage)
11. Peperami sausages (more snackage)
12. Suncream (ever the optimists)
13. A silly hat (de rigeur)
14. Loo roll

Have we missed anything? Let us know by posting a comment.

See you on the A12.

Yeah!