Everything you need to know about Aldeburgh's HighTide Festival 2019

PUBLISHED: 19:10 09 August 2019

Collapsible by Margaret Perry which is being staged as part of this year's HighTide festival in Aldeburgh. Photo: Bronwen Sharp

Collapsible by Margaret Perry which is being staged as part of this year's HighTide festival in Aldeburgh. Photo: Bronwen Sharp


HighTide is a festival which celebrates the very best in new writing and groundbreaking contemporary theatre performances. We take a look at this year's programme

HighTide festival in Aldeburgh celebrates new writing in contemporary theatreHighTide festival in Aldeburgh celebrates new writing in contemporary theatre

HighTide, the Suffolk-based theatre festival which celebrates new writing, returns to Aldeburgh for their 13th festival with a world premiere and new work from homegrown talent. This latest programme which mixes local and national voices will be Steven Atkinson's final festival as artistic director; it illustrates HighTide's ongoing commitment to championing new writing as a platform for not only contemporary theatre but also a space for political and provocative work, created by new and diverse artists.

HighTide is renowned for the discovery of new playwrights, including Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Vinay Patel. Having provided a platform for Suffolk playwright and performer Tallulah Brown last year, 2019 sees the staging of East Anglian writer Kenny Emson's Rust, about two people who never expected to fall in love again. This will form the centrepiece of this year's festival alongside the world premiere of LIT, by Sophie Ellerby, which follows Bex, a teenage girl looking for love in all the wrong places.

Running in conjunction with the theatre programme, leading artistic figures such as Andrew Davies, Kate Mosse, Catherine Johnson and Deborah Warner will discuss their crafts and the hilarious Simon Evans and the popular showman Joe Stilgoe will also be on hand.

LIT by Sophie Ellerby which is being staged as part of this year's HighTide festival in Aldeburgh. Photo: HighTideLIT by Sophie Ellerby which is being staged as part of this year's HighTide festival in Aldeburgh. Photo: HighTide

For the first time, BBC Radio 3 and BBC Arts will come to the Festival to record live performances of new HighTide radio plays by alumni Tallulah Brown and Vinay Patel for broadcast later this year.

Steven Atkinson, co-founder of HighTide, says that his final programme exemplifies everything he has set out to do with the event - premiering top quality new writing by talents such as Sophie Ellerby, Yolanda Mercy and Margaret Perry, while also working with such leading creative lights as BBC Radio 3 and the Bush Theatre. "HighTide Festival is a unique melting pot of the brightest new talents and the greats of today's creative industries, in the intimate and beautiful setting of coastal Aldeburgh," he says.

Pops, by Charlotte Josephine, which is being staged as part of this year's HighTide festival in Aldeburgh. Photo: Bronwen SharpPops, by Charlotte Josephine, which is being staged as part of this year's HighTide festival in Aldeburgh. Photo: Bronwen Sharp


HighTide in Aldeburgh will host the world premiere of LIT by Sophie Ellerby, developed as part of a HighTide commission, and explores turbulent teenage years, the spark of LIT came from Sophie's experience of studying young women and mothers in the prison system; here she revives a proud British tradition that places complex working class people at the heart of the work.

A co-production between HighTide and Nottingham Playhouse, LIT is directed by one of the leading innovators in British Theatre, Stef O'Driscoll (artistic director of nabokov).

Rust, by Kenny Emson, which is being staged as part of this year's HighTide festival in Aldeburgh. Photo: HighTideRust, by Kenny Emson, which is being staged as part of this year's HighTide festival in Aldeburgh. Photo: HighTide

Transferring from a season at the Edinburgh Fringe and Bush Theatre, Rust joins LIT as the headline productions for HighTide. Ultra-contemporary, sexy and funny, Rust is a love story about two people trying to escape the pressures of the modern world be pushing the boundaries of trust, love and lust to the limit. Written by Kenny Emson, directed by Eleanor Rhode (King John, Royal Shakespeare Company; Boudica, Shakespeare's Globe) and starring Jon Foster (Dear Elizabeth, Gate Theatre) and Claire Lams (One Man, Two Guvnors, Broadway, West End and National Theatre), it explores the societal pressures that can sometimes trap us, preventing us from taking a chance on something, or someone, new.

Collapsible (winner of a VAULT Festival 2019's Origin Award for Outstanding New Work) is a funny, furious new monologue about holding on, by award-winning Irish writer Margaret Perry (Porcelain), directed by Thomas Martin (Ross and Rachel). Following the life of a complex bisexual woman, it looks at connecting with others when you're not connected to yourself. It features a stunning set piece for this character who quite literally doesn't have her feet on the ground.

Pops, from award-winning writer Charlotte Josephine, follows a father and daughter caught in a cycle of addiction trying to love fiercely through a hopeless situation. Asking challenging questions about mental health, it looks at what is inherited and who is responsible. In this harsh political climate it tells a story to rid people of self-inflicted shame.

Since U Been Gone, part of the Queer House strand in this year's HighTide festival in Aldeburgh. Photo: Bronwen SharpSince U Been Gone, part of the Queer House strand in this year's HighTide festival in Aldeburgh. Photo: Bronwen Sharp

A new partnership between HighTide and The Queer House provides the opportunity for Since U Been Gone, by Teddy Lamb, and Mia Johnson's Pink Lemonade to come to Suffolk. Lamb's moving autobiographical account of growing up queer in the Midlands, finding yourself, and losing a friend is brought to life in Since U Been Gone with storytelling and an original pop music score. Johnson's Pink Lemonade is a multi-disciplinary piece exploring masculinity and lesbianism in the fetishism of Black and Brown bodies.

HighTide also presents new productions which keeps Aldeburgh close to its heart. Beach walks, fish and chips, carnival processions, echoes of bygone Aldeburgh summers, The Old House by Kate Maravan is a funny, heart-wrenching and beautiful story of a mother and daughter. In a last chance to meet each other anew, they hang on to fragments of what they know as their history begins to slip away.

Award-winning writer Molly Naylor brings her new play to the Festival. LIGHTS! PLANETS! PEOPLE! is an intimate and exhilarating play about space science, legacy, loss and communication - both interpersonal and intergalactic.

Pink Lemonade, part of the Queer House strand in this year's HighTide festival in Aldeburgh. Photo: Bronwen SharpPink Lemonade, part of the Queer House strand in this year's HighTide festival in Aldeburgh. Photo: Bronwen Sharp

Presented by Suffolk company, Wonderful Beast, Thea Smiley's The Last Woodwose is a beautiful piece which follows a rare Woodwose, or wild woman, captured in a woodland, who must share her extraordinary story to regain her freedom.

There's fun for all the family with flying cows, jazzy cats and runaway crockery as Hey Diddle Diddle! jump and jive to the music in a brilliant new take on the classic nursery rhyme. Then there will be a performance of the Fringe First award-winning Status by Chris Thorpe and Rachel Chavkin which talks about nationality and trying to run away from the national story you are given. It's a globe-spanning journey of attempted escape, with songs along the way.

In Art Heist, a new existential comedy caper from Poltergeist, the team behind the award-winning Lights Over Tesco Car Park, three thieves break into the same gallery on the same night, so it's bound to get messy.

The Festival will also present the first looks at works-in-progress. Unpacking real-life stories of loss, joy and transformation, Mid Life by Shelia Chapman considers three fierce women at a moment of change - the Menopause. Logan Dankworth, from Suffolk poet Luke Wright, follows a journalist determined to join the Brexit fray in one of the biggest political battles ever, while his family are ready to leave London for something better and as tensions rise at home and across the nation, something will be lost.

Following her sell-out show, The Profit, at HighTide 2018, Amy Gwilliam returns with .staybless, the new confessional black comedy about human hypocrisy and the struggle to remain good.

Yolanda Mercy's Cooking with Dad is inspired by a real journey to build a relationship with her father; Yinka has a tricky relationship with commitment and a complicated relationship with her dad but when she feels alone, temptation leads her down a road she wasn't expecting.

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Offering a new way to enjoy one of last year's hit shows, the Songlines Installation and Exhibition will present extracts from the 360-degree virtual theatre experience captured during performance last year by LIVR, the new virtual reality platform, alongside artefacts from the production to showcase how it was made.


Joe Stilgoe returns to HighTide following his rousing success in 2017. A true entertainer; he is known for his wit, style and musicianship which has seen him recognised as one of the best singer-pianists in the world. He will perform songs from his critically-acclaimed and charttopping albums alongside classics from Cole Porter and Louis Prima.

Ever since Simon Evans was a small boy, all he really wanted was to be recognised by the world as a man of genius. He has, until now, remained thwarted. As seen on Live at the Apollo, and as heard on BBC Radio 4's Simon Evans Goes to Market and Newsquiz, here in his razor-sharp and brilliantly funny 'Genius', Evans takes on a world endlessly distracted by the trivial and increasingly indifferent to true genius of any kind, let alone his.


With expertise across theatre, television and novels, HighTide's Talks programme, in partnership with The Agency, is not to be missed as leading figures meet to discuss key debates in the industry. Known as the specialist in adapting classic fiction for film and television, Andrew Davies' extensive credits include Pride and Prejudice, Vanity Far, War and Peace and most recently the BBC's Les Misérables. He will meet the bestselling author of Labyrinth and The Burning Chambers, Kate Mosse.

Meanwhile, writer of the stage musical Mamma Mia! Catherine Johnson will be in conversation with National Theatre director Anthony Banks.

Deborah Warner CBE is the award-winning director whose worked in theatre and opera across the world, with productions on the West End and Broadway, for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the English National Opera. She will be joined in discussion by Terri Paddock, a theatre influencer, event producer and marketing strategist with over 20 years' experience.

She co-founded and ran building it into the UK's leading theatre website.


Coming to the Festival for the first time, BBC Radio 3 and BBC Arts are collaborating with HighTide and two talented alumni writers Vinay Patel (HighTide production True Brits; Doctor Who; BAFTA-nominated Murdered By My Father) and Aldeburgh-raised Tallulah Brown (BBC New Talent Hotlist; Sea Fret; writer of HighTide hit Songlines) on two 45 minute radio plays that thematically interweave; to be recorded live and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 later in the year.

Vinay Patel's The Shores - Three Tales From the End of a World, brings together stories from the

ancient past, the modern Suffolk Coast and a dystopian future to explore community, gods and catastrophe.

Silver Darlings by Tallulah Brown is a mystical play, which is set near Sizewell's nuclear power plant, and examines environmental disaster and pulling up a mermaid from the North Sea.

HighTide works with a wide range of talented artists to develop ideas from conception to full production, in partnership with a number of organisations with similar goals. This year, they are presenting a range of new work in development with Coney, Eastern Angles and Tamasha.

The First Time as Tragedy is an ambitious and bold piece of playing theatre by William Drew in partnership with Coney, which uses contributions from the audience and improvisations from the actors to build a narrative that will be entirely different every time it is performed. It attempts to examine Karl Marx's declaration that, "all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice [...] the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

James McDermott's Spare Change, in partnership with Eastern Angles, is about a small community struggling with change in a county and country also struggling with change. A comedy-drama about the sexually and ethnically diverse intergenerational work force of a Norfolk amusement arcade trying to live with, learn from and love each other. It demonstrates HighTide and Eastern Angles' commitment to supporting talented East Anglian writers.

These works in progress will also be joined by Paradise Fields by Taj Atwal, partnered with Tamasha. Fearless Asmi is desperate to leave her home in Yorkshire and make it big as a RIP Speed girl at Halfords. Charlie's mum is on a never-ending holiday as Charlie drowns in her mum's ever-increasing debt. Together they hatch schemes to make money, survive starvation and learn to become each other's mum. And dad.

The Cross Keys will also present a special late-night programme this year with live music from The Rogue Shanty Buoys and The King Driscolls. There will also be the return of the HighTide Festival Pub Quiz to raise money for Suffolk Animal Rescue. With a Ceilidh led by one of the UK's most successful Ceilidh bands, The Shipsters, dancing will be the order of the day as the HighTide Festival Closing Party at Jubilee Hall aims to give Steven Atkinson's last Aldeburgh Festival the send-off it deserves.

HighTide runs at various venes across Aldeburgh from September 10-15. The full programme and tickets for all shows are available at or call Snape Maltings Box Office on 01728 687110. Website

The Festival Hub and Box Office at Fisher Gin Distillery, Beach Lodge, Crag Path IP15 5BT will be open from 9.30am throughout the Festival.

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