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HighTide adds a musical feel to this year’s festival on the Suffolk coast

PUBLISHED: 17:02 12 July 2018

Songlines by Tallulah Brown, is a new musical play examining the joys and frustrations of growing up on the Suffolk coast. Photo: Helen Maybanks

Songlines by Tallulah Brown, is a new musical play examining the joys and frustrations of growing up on the Suffolk coast. Photo: Helen Maybanks

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HighTide unveils a musical tinged theatre festival this year. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to artistic director Steven Atkinson about the treats in store and discovers a real East Anglian flavour to the work

Launch of The Hightide Theatre Festival in Aldeburgh.
Artistic director and founder of the company and Steven Atkinson. Photo: Sarah Lucy BrownLaunch of The Hightide Theatre Festival in Aldeburgh. Artistic director and founder of the company and Steven Atkinson. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown

Hightide, the new writing theatre festival, based on the Suffolk coast, has announced its 12th festival programme and its fourth in Aldeburgh.

This year’s diverse offering has been slightly overshadowed by the news that its founding artistic director Steven Atkinson has made the decision to move on to new challenges and will depart after next year’s festival.

“Creating and leading HighTide has been such a brilliant start to my career. I’ve decided that in 2019, after twelve years as artistic director and CEO, it’s the right time to take up new opportunities in theatre producing.”

Busking It, by Danusia Samai,  mixes music with tales from passing strangers encountered on the London underground. Photo: Helen MaybanksBusking It, by Danusia Samai, mixes music with tales from passing strangers encountered on the London underground. Photo: Helen Maybanks

The festival itself will continue and will champion new writing and provide opportunities for emerging directors and other theatre professionals.

Steven Atkinson said that the launch of the programme marks the company’s continued commitment to creating a bridge that supports new theatre makers starting out on the fringe, building on the festival’s ability to provide a platform for launching careers in the UK’s leading theatres.

“The joy of HighTide is that it is artist-led. The festival exists to champion new talent but you have to remember that the new talent can do whatever they want and that is why the flavour of every year is so diverse. For us, the question becomes what sort of new talent would be like, so someone like Tallulah Brown fits perfectly.

Sparks by Jessica Butcher, one of the five new plays at this years HighTide festival. Photo: Helen MaybanksSparks by Jessica Butcher, one of the five new plays at this years HighTide festival. Photo: Helen Maybanks

“We have a festival on the coast in Aldeburgh, if we can find a local writer who can tell a local story with the level of brilliance which shows they can go on and do a big Broadway play we should absolutely we working with that person.

“I think this year’s festival has the most East Anglian flavour it has ever had. A lot of young writers start small by staging their own productions but they need to partner with someone to take their work to the next level and realise their artistic ambitions.”

Alongside the five headline shows, HighTide will feature: East Anglian poet Luke Wright with work in progress Poet Laureate; Jon Brittain’s acclaimed cabaret musical about depression A Super Happy Story (about Feeling Super Sad); Gail Ludlow and Jeffrey Holland’s …And This is My Friend Mr Laurel, a tribute to one of Hollywood’s greatest film comedians; Isley Lynn’s sexual odyssey Skin A Cat; Woke by Apphia Campbell and Meredith Yarbrough – a new story on 20th-century African-American experience – and Soul Sessions with Apphia Campbell direct from sell-out performances across the world.

Thor and Loki, by Harry Blake, is  abig-hearted comedy and part of the main performance schedule at HighTide. Photo: Helen MaybanksThor and Loki, by Harry Blake, is abig-hearted comedy and part of the main performance schedule at HighTide. Photo: Helen Maybanks

Comedy includes Flo & Joan: Alive on Stage, and Adam Kay – This is Going to Hurt (Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor). For families there’s Mrs H Sings, the unique singalong band, and One Duck Down – a big adventure about 7000 rubber ducks while Wonderful Beast will present a sharing of The Last Woodwose staring Diana Quick, and Solar Productions present Amy Gwillams’ The Profit.

The Festival will also be partnering with The Aldeburgh Bookshop for literary ‘In Conversations’ with Kate Mosse and Patrick Gale.

HighTide Aldeburgh runs from September 11-16

The Extinction Event - a theatrical magicians performance, which one of the five main events at this year's HighTide Festival. Photo: HighTideThe Extinction Event - a theatrical magicians performance, which one of the five main events at this year's HighTide Festival. Photo: HighTide

HighTide’s Headline Plays:

Songlines, by Tallulah Brown, co-produced with associate company DugOut Theatre, is a song-laced coming of age tale which details the joys and frustrations about growing up in a rural community on the East Anglian coastline. Set in Reydon, Suffolk, it features live folk music from the award-winning band TRILLS.

Busking It, by Danusia Samal, is a gig-theatre piece, drawing on a decade of busking on the tube. It shows how cities are full of stories if you stop and listen. It blends the voices of passers-by with live music, creating chance encounters in the tunnels of the London underground.

Sparks, by Jessica Butcher, is a two-hander musical about the brain’s response to grief. It’s the story of a kamikaze love affair which is both hilarious and heartbreaking with original music by Anoushka Lucas.

The Extinction Event, by David Aula and Simon Evans, is an examination of what happens when science starts thinking for itself. Magicians David Aula and Simon Evans claim that at the end of 60 minutes mankind will vanish, stating that ‘A magician is an actor playing the part of God’.

Thor and Loki, by Harry Blake, is a fabulous new comedy musical about Norse gods, directed by HighTide associate artist Eleanor Rhode who is responsible for the critically acclaimed Boudicca at Shakespeare’s Globe and the new musical Teddy, which was staged at the New Wolsey earlier this year.

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