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Hightide, new theatre festival, to be staged on Aldeburgh beach

PUBLISHED: 17:51 22 June 2017

The Mix, the new pop-up theatre space, at this year's HighTide festival. Photo: HighTide

The Mix, the new pop-up theatre space, at this year's HighTide festival. Photo: HighTide

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Hightide festival has been premiering plays in Suffolk for the last decade. Three years ago it moved to Aldeburgh and as Arts Editor Andrew Clarke discovers it has flourished on the Suffolk coast. He takes a look at this year’s line-up.

Launch of The Hightide Theatre Festival in Aldeburgh.
Artistic director and founder of the company and Steven Atkinson. Launch of The Hightide Theatre Festival in Aldeburgh. Artistic director and founder of the company and Steven Atkinson.

World premieres, new plays, writers workshops, comedy, music, poetry, family events, even some star interviews – The HighTide Festival, the annual celebration of new writing and theatre, will be returning to Aldeburgh this September with a specially tailored programme which emphasises the diversity of the arts.

Once again, the focus of the festival will centre on the beach with the unveiling of a new, state-of-the-art performance space called The Mix. HighTide will be the first time this portable theatre space has been used in this type of situation and it will sit alongside Aldeburgh’s Moot Hall for duration of the festival.

Hightide’s artistic director Steven Atkinson said that The Mix will give audiences a better experience and allow directors greater freedom when it came to staging the work.

The Mix will seat 260 people and will enable HighTide to accommodate its expanding audience. “It’s a very flexible space. If we stage a production in the round then its seating capacity rises to 380. It is equipped with the very latest technologies in sound and lighting and all the seats are ergonomically designed. All the sightlines are good. There’s no such thing as a bad seat. It’s the ultimate pop-up venue and has been designed to give audiences the experience of being in a brand new theatre. We’re very excited to have it here in Aldeburgh.”

Girls, a play in development last year, receives a fully staged performance at this year's HighTide festival. Photo: HighTide Girls, a play in development last year, receives a fully staged performance at this year's HighTide festival. Photo: HighTide

Steven added that they have also changed the shape of the event to give it a more concentrated festival feel. “We were looking for ways to keep developing the work. We are staging two world premieres, showcasing the finished version of a play that was a work-in-progress last year, as well as a range of other new work and performances.

“Our thinking was that at the beginning of the festival, every time a new play was performed we’d invite the audience to stay behind, if they are able, and give us their feedback which we then pass on to the writer and director.

“Then inbetween performances they then continue to rehearse and develop the show to make it better. So the whole festival, instead of just being about premiering plays, it is now about developing plays.”

He said that he will be interested in hearing about how audiences react to Girls which was given a performance as a work-in-progress last year and is now returns as a fully-formed, highly successful show and is much more confident in what it is saying.

Kanye the First, receives it's world premiere at this year's HighTide festival. Photo: HighTide Kanye the First, receives it's world premiere at this year's HighTide festival. Photo: HighTide

“Girls tells the tale of three young friends who are kidnapped in Nigeria, Ikoko wrote Girls to highlight the stories behind the headlines that quickly become yesterday’s news. Sadly, this play is even more relevant than it was a year ago.”

In addition to Girls, by Theresa Ikoko, HighTide will be premiering Heroine by Nessah Muthy directed by Steven Atkinson and comic drama Kanye The First by Sam Steiner directed by HighTide associate director Andrew Twyman.

Muthy’s play is a devastating exploration of patriotism in modern Britain and follows young ex-soldier Grace as she struggles to reassimilate into society following a medical discharge from the army while Steiner’s first commissioned, and highly original, play will chart the second coming of global pop icon Kanye West. The play takes a timely look at identity and guilt in contemporary culture.

As always HighTide will be an eclectic mix of the thoughtful and the fun. Steven said: “ HighTide continues to commission bold and timely plays from the best new writers but also on Saturday we are creating a fun night of fringe theatre, music and a nod to Mozart as well as the early days of cinema.”

There will also be family performances of Peter and the Wolf plus interviews with author Michael Morpurgo and actress Sheila Hancock conducted by author Kate Mosse.

Saturday also sees the first HighTide Academy Presentation where plays in development are given their first public readings performed by members of The Chichester Festival Youth Theatre and the New Wolsey Youth Company.

HighTide theatre festival runs from September 12-17 in Aldeburgh. For the full programme, venue information and to book tickets see the festival website: www.hightide.org.uk

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