Latitude’s reputation for staging theatre has really grown since its inception, establishing itself as on the best theatre festivals in Europe. So much so that this year it can again boast a welter of top theatrical names.

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The National Theatre, the Lyric, Sadler’s Wells and Gate Theatre will all be present this year, together with literally dozens of fascinating smaller companies.

Tania Harrison, festival arts programmer, said: “The theatre will be phenomenal — you could not go to London and see everything we have got here. I can hardly contain my excitement about the dance, especially Sadler’s Wells.”

Sadler’s Wells will be presenting a number of pieces including Trisha Brown’s unforgettable work Set and Reset/Reset (Sat), Wah! Wah! Girls (Sat), a British Bollywood musical, and Serial Stepperz (Fri) on the Waterfront stage, a hip hop dance inspired by club culture and performed by a French collective. There will also be a chance to see a number of choreographer Matthew Bourne’s early works (Sun) as he celebrates his 25th anniversary.

Bold Australia contemporary circus company C!rca (Fri/Sat) are sure to be a real highlight with their breath-taking, heart stopping show.

Others too seek out include Alexandra Spencer-Jones’ all male production of A Clockwork Orange (Sat) and the mind-blowing shadow puppetry show Swamp Juice (Sat/Sun).

The Lyric, the small Hammersmith theatre with a distinguished reputation that far exceeds its size brings Nabokov’s Symphony (Fri/Sat) a show that is part performance, part live gig which brings together three of the most exciting new writers in Britain today Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Tom Wells.

National Theatre: NT Connections will be presenting a new rock-musical take on Alice in Wonderland in Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s adaptation Alice by Heart (Sun). Sater has won Tony Awards while alt-rocker Duncan Sheik has bagged a Grammy so this is sure to be a very exciting show.

Reflecting Latitude’s countryside setting Leeds Metropolitan University will be presenting Flock (Fri/Sat/Sun) a kinetic and fanciful intervention that takes as inspiration the flocking of starlings at dawn and twilight.

Other groups staging work include Company of Theatre 503, The Gate, Birmingham Rep, Theatre Ad Infinitum, Theatre Uncut, The Globe and The Opera Company.

The Cabaret Arena is one of those areas that always throws up something unexpected and this year it is bigger than ever.

You know what’ll you’ll get with bands but here it’s a trip into the unknown. Lined up in this surreal bordello of surprises this year are everything from the Duckie country hoe-down (Sat) — with Rich Hall adding true American country credentials — to burlesque cabaret troupes. Don’t miss fast-paced sketch comedy troupe Late Night Gimp Fight (Sun), who’ve been building up quite a cult following in London. Other off-the-wall comedy comes from Adam Kay (Fri), The Idiots of Ants (Fri) and The Horne Section (Sun), Alex Horne’s jazz-infused comedy ensemble.

Friday night sees Ida Barr, a Gangsta Grandma on a nature mission, host an oddball mix of circus, comedy, music and showbiz — like the Good Old Days gone wrong. And fresh from sell-out, packed to the rafters shows in London and Edinburgh Spank! (Sun) returns to Latitude for another wild night of sketch, character, musical and stand-up comedy.

The Circus Space (Fri) takes a sardonic at political debate and protest using the unusual medium of trapeze, poles, spinning hoops and juggling hats, while The Segue Sisters (Sun) give a fresh take on classic tunes past present and future.

And heavily hyped sketch comedy group Four Screws Loose (Sat) make their Latitude debut with their hotly-anticipated new show comprising wildly exuberant, pop culture-obsessed silliness intercut with high-energy songs and musical mash-ups

We could say more, but we don’t want to spoil the surprises.

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