cinch Presents Latitude 2021 – Thursday Highlights

After two years away from our beloved Henham Park, we couldn’t be more thrilled to be back for cinch Presents Latitude 2021!

Glorious sunshine shone down on Thursday as we opened the gates and welcomed you all to Latitude once more.

In the first of our daily highlights articles, we review flamenco dancers Attab Haddad Ensemble, music from Hattie Whitehead and Sam Lee, theatre from Silent Faces Theatre and late night entertainment from The Cocoa Butter Club.

Attab Haddad Ensemble: Flamenco Arabe

There’s no better feeling than the Thursday dusk of a Latitude. As the sun begins to settle on the lake, the golden hour becomes about getting ready to shake those cobwebs off as you get ready for a weekend of revelry. Over at the Waterfront stage, the Attab Haddad Ensemble ensured the crowd got exactly what they desired.

The ensemble’s original production ‘Flamenco Arabe’, famously lead by Attab Haddad’s wondrous oud playing, creates a mesmerising concoction of domineering sounds that demands they take centre stage. Within seconds, the background soundscape of Latitude melted away, making way for an enthralling new type of rhythm.

Each composition is a melting pot of musical cues from around the world. Flamenco can fuse with traditional middle eastern sounds one minute then take on a jazz tempo the next. Even in its quieter moments, there’s a culpable sense of anticipation of what’s next.

The dancers more than add to the flow when it’s their turn to command the stage. At times it’s a smooth complement to the music, a graceful and elegant sweeping of their bodies almost as if it’s floating atop the lake. However when it’s their time to shine, the music holds still as their intense footwork creates a wholly more pulsing percussion. As the band joined in to take it into overdrive, the roar of applause from all around them became all the more evident this was a first night to remember.

Attab Haddad

Hattie Whitehead

A calming reintroduction to live music, Hattie Whitehead’s hushed acoustic sound gently fills The Outpost stage in a warm embrace. The delicate melodies of ‘More Than That’ gives way to a soaring chorus, full of honest lyrics and emotion.

Whitehead’s vantage point on love, life and loss has a real depth to it. She has an innate ability to uncover romance in both the extraordinary and the mundane. With a voice as gentle as this, it feels as though Hattie could sing the phone book and transform it into an old school love story.

The setting sun and forest surroundings are hushed to near silence for Whitehead’s more subtle songs. Laughing and joking between playing, Hattie forges a meaningful connection with her crowd.

Listeners were also treated to music from Whitehead’s upcoming album. The new material has a signature heartfelt vein running throughout, working as a cohesive progression from earlier in the set.

As the last song is signalled, there is a collective snap back to a slightly less calm reality. Nonetheless, Hattie Whitehead has cultivated a pocket of serenity in the midst of The Faraway Forest.

Hattie Whitehead

Sam Lee

The arrival of Sam Lee to The Outpost sees him sit behind his piano and enrich the audience with a cathartic melancholy.

Lee’s storytelling is complex yet never aloof. The sombre piano accompaniments are the ideal vehicle for Lee’s emotive lyrics. There is an honest depth that the audience are welcomed into like a close friend or confidante.

By his own admission, Sam Lee knows his music is perhaps heavier than most. Joking self-depreciation fills the spaces between songs, breaking the ice on an otherwise serious performance.

An accomplished pianist, Lee takes the audience on a journey through different moods and emotions every step of the way. The light flourishes in amongst the darker tones blend together seamlessly to ensure Lee is right there for his crowd every step of the way.

As the piano melodies fill the forest with calm, the audience dips into a truly zen state. The collective ‘power down’ adds to the magic of the evening in a way that is integral to the ethos of Latitude as a whole.

Sam Lee

Silent Faces Theatre: Godot Is A Woman

One play. One problem. One phone. The play: Waiting for Godot. The problem: the fact that since Samuel Beckett’s static opus opened in 1953, only men have ever been allowed to play the main roles of Didi and Gogo in any English production. The phone: on hold to Beckett’s estate, waiting even.

So what’s the solution? Well if you can’t beat them, join them. Silent Faces just wait. The trio of Silent Faces have begun to make their name as a tour de force in fringe theatre, never allowing themselves to be pigeon-holed. ‘Godot Is a Woman’ is a prime example of them defying definition. It never rests on its laurels, packing out an hour with a blend of modern clowning, intricate physical theatre, and joyous dance routines to Madonna.

It’s clear the troupe have a passionate reverence to the original material, the play acting as a dissection of its genius albeit wrapped in this problematic layer. They ruminate not on the issues of the play –  indeed, they believe it’s perhaps Beckett’s most universal work – but how the estate’s control of his works is stuck in a bygone era. With Beckett passing away in 1989, would he still feel the same had he seen the progression of rights for women, transgender and non-binary people – would he have felt the same had he heard Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’? ‘Godot Is a Woman’ thinks not as it effortlessly towed the line between silly and serious, slapstick and solemn.

Godot Is A Woman

The Cocoa Butter Club

The Cocoa Butter Club has been taking over London over the past few years, showcasing the best in cabaret from people of colour with a simple mantra: “decolonise and moisturise”. Their nights are becoming the thing of legend, so it’s only right we asked them to close The Ballroom for its first ever night with an explosion of talent.

This isn’t cabaret for the tame – Cocoa Butter Club wore its late night standing as a badge of honour. Compered by founder Sadie Sinner, the scintillating songstress was the glue that held the night together with a nod, a wink and an incredible vocal range.

There were drag lip sync extravaganzas, hula hoops, burlesque, hula hoop burlesque, Studio 54 megamixes, rainbow butterflies sweeping the stage – all lapped up by a crowd who would’ve stayed until sunrise if they could. One audience member even ended up on stage, receiving a bellydance on what he later revealed was his first night of a festival. Ever. One you won’t forget.

This is what The Ballroom is all about. Audiences taking a chance on new and exciting acts, revelling in the excitement no matter the hour.