2019 Aldeburgh Programme Announced!

2019 Aldeburgh Programme Announced!

Posted on May 30th, 2019


HighTide Festival returns to the idyllic Suffolk seaside in Aldeburgh for the annual Festival of Theatre and Live Performance from 10–15 September, 2019. Boasting world premieres, and new work from homegrown talent, HighTide champions emerging and diverse artists, providing space for political, contemporary and provocative work.

Over five stunning days by the seaside, HighTide will present a jam-packed programme of new and diverse theatre, talks by world-class artists, play readings, sets by comedy legends, sing-alongs with cabaret stars, late nights at the Cross Keys and so much more. Read on for all the details.

We will return to Aldeburgh for our 13th festival with a world premiere and new work from homegrown talent.  This fantastic programme will be Steven Atkinson’s final Festival as Artistic Director; it illustrates our commitment to championing new writing as the space for political, contemporary and provocative work, created by new and diverse artists.

Supporting exciting theatre makers and providing them with the very best platform on which to be heard, HighTide is renowned for the discovery of new playwrights, including Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Vinay Patel.  From HighTide’s home, East Anglian writer Kenny Emson’s Rust, about two people who never expected to fall in love again, is the centrepiece of the 2019 programme 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.  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, Artistic Director, comments, HighTide Festival 2019 exemplifies what the Festival is internationally renowned for: premiering top quality new writing by talents such as Sophie Ellerby, Yolanda Mercy and Margaret Perry, while also working with household creative names such 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.


Aldeburgh will see the world premiere of LIT by Sophie Ellerby (THREE) lead the theatre programme, ahead of its transfer to Nottingham Playhouse.  Exploring 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).

Transferring from a season at the Edinburgh Fringe and Bush Theatre, Rust, joins LIT, as the headline productions for HighTide Festival Aldeburgh.  About pushing the boundaries of trust, love and lust to the limit, Rust is an ultra-contemporary, sexy and funny production from Kenny Emson (Plastic), directed by Eleanor Rhode (King John, Royal Shakespeare Company; Boudica, Shakespeare’s Globe) which stars 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 chancing something or someone new.

Collapsible (winner of 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), and co-produced with Ellie Keel Productions.  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 (Bitch Boxer; Blush), directed by Ali Pidsley of Barrel Organ, and co-produced by Live Theatre and Jake Orr Productions, 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.

An exciting partnership with HighTide and The Queer House sees Since U Been Gone by Teddy Lamb and Mika Johnson’s Pink Lemonade 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 Black womxn. Fusing spoken word, bashment, original sound and movement, Pink Lemonade deconstructs micro-aggressions and the discourse around the fetishism of Black and Brown bodies.

Never losing sight of its idyllic setting, we will present exciting productions which keeps Aldeburgh close to the heart.  Beach walks, fish and chips, carnival processions, echoes of bygone Aldeburgh summers, The Old House by Kate Maravan is a heart-wrenching and beautiful story of a mother and daughter hanging on to fragments of what they know as their history begins to slip away.   Award-winning local talent Molly Naylor will bring 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.  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.  In a globe-spanning journey of attempted escape, with songs along the way, the Fringe First award-winning Status by Chris Thorpe (Your Best Guess; There has Possibly Been an Incident) and Rachel Chavkin (The American Clock, The Old Vic; Hadestown, Broadway and West End) about nationality and trying to run away from the national story you are given.  Art Heist is the new existential comedy caper from Poltergeist, the team behind the award-winning Lights Over Tesco Car Park, one of the most exciting emerging companies in the UK; when three thieves break into the same gallery on the same night, it’s bound to get messy.

The Festival will also present the first looks at the freshest work-in-progress coming from contemporary writers.  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 local 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.

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 chart-topping 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. 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 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, whose works have been translated into 38 languages.

Writer of the stage musical Mamma Mia!, now celebrating its 20th anniversary in the West End, and of the screenplay for the international smash hit movie, Catherine Johnson will be in conversation with Anthony Banks, who has directed new plays at the National Theatre and the UK tour of The Girl on the Train as well as commissioning and developing a hundred new plays for NT Connections during his time as Associate Director.

 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 WhatsOnStage.com building it into the UK’s leading theatre website. Terri has hosted launch events, conferences and awards ceremonies, and chaired hundreds of panel discussions with actors and creatives at all levels.



Coming to the Festival for the first time, BBC Radio 3 and BBC Arts are collaborating with HighTide and two of their talented alumni writers Vinay Patel (HighTide production True Brits; Doctor Who; BAFTA-nominated Murdered By My Father) and Aldeburgh-born Tallulah Brown (BBC New Talent Hotlist; writer of HighTide hit Songlines) on a 90-minute drama presentation of interweaving stories to be live recorded to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

Vinay Patel’s The Shores Three Tales From the End of a World brings together three 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 radio play with mermaids, hospital bills and environmental disaster; it’s about sinking to the depths of the unknown in order to push yourself up again.

HighTide works with a wide range of talented artists to develop ideas from conception to full production, in partnership with excellent organisations with similar goals.  They are presenting a range of new work in development including James McDermott’s Spare Change – a play reading about a small community struggling with change in a county and country also struggling with change.  A comedy drama about the ethnically diverse intergenerational work force of a Norfolk amusement arcade trying to live with, learn from and love each other, Spare Change is produced by HighTide and Eastern Angles to commission and support East Anglian writers.

The First Time as Tragedy is an ambitious and bold piece of playing theatre by Will 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.” 

These works-in-progress will also be joined by Paradise Fields by Taj Atwal, co-commissioned 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.

Ye Olde Cross Keys will also present a special late-night programme this year with live music from The Rogue Shanty Buoys and The King Driscolls.  For the very first time, there will also be a 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, you’ll need to shine your dancing shoes for the HighTide Festival Closing Party at Jubilee Hall to give Steven Atkinson’s last Aldeburgh Festival the send-off it deserves.

The full programme and tickets for all shows are available on our website or call Snape Maltings Box Office on 01728 687110. 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

HighTide will take Rust, Collapsible, Pops, The Queer House’s Pink Lemonade and Since U Been Gone alongside Suffering From Scottishness to Assembly Roxy for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from Wednesday 31st July.


HighTide is theatre company and charity based in East Anglia that has an unparalleled twelve-year history under Artistic Director Steven Atkinson of successfully launching the careers of emerging British playwrights.  Their alumni include: Luke Barnes, Adam Brace, E V Crowe, Elinor Cook, Rob Drummond, Thomas Eccleshare, Theresa Ikoko, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Anders Lustgarten, Joel Horwood, Ella Hickson, Harry Melling, Nessah Muthy, Vinay Patel, Nick Payne, Phil Porter, Beth Steel, Al Smith, Sam Steiner, Molly Taylor, Jack Thorne and Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig.  They have staged productions with the highest quality theatres across the UK, from the Traverse in Edinburgh, to the Royal Exchange in Manchester, Theatre Royal Bath and the National Theatre in London. They discover new talent, provide creative development opportunities for playwrights and other creatives, and stage high quality theatre productions both in their region and nationally through their festivals and touring.  They enable new and underrepresented playwrights to express their visions of contemporary politics and society, demonstrate their creative potential and therein showcase the future of theatre.