- Katie Mitchell, Headlong and the Barbican collaborate on the UK premiere of a new version of Miranda Rose Hall’s A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction. This innovative production, a bold experiment in eco theatre, is powered entirely by bicycles, and provides a blueprint for how we could sustainably tour theatre in a climate crisis.
- US choreographer Trajal Harrell blends voguing, Japanese butoh, performance art and contemporary dance in the UK premiere of trilogy Porca Miseria, co-commissioned by the Barbican, Manchester International Festival and Dance Umbrella.
- Simon McBurney directs a major new Complicité production based on Olga Tokarczuk’s novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, a Barbican co-commission
- Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black returns to the Barbican with a new double bill Pioneers, featuring Will Tuckett’s Then Or Now with the poetry of Adrienne Rich, and the world premiere of Mthuthuzeli November’s By Whatever Means, a love letter to Nina Simone, combining ballet, jazz and the blues – both Barbican co-commissions.
- Barbican Artistic Associate Cheek by Jowl take on Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s classic Life is a Dream as their first Spanish-language production, a UK premiere.
- Rachel Mars welds a replica of the stolen gate to Dachau concentration camp in FORGE, a four-day durational performance installation about memorials and human behaviour at spaces with difficult histories.
- Kakilang (formerly Chinese Arts Now) presents HOME X, a live show that mixes dance, music, gaming and deep-sensing cameras that capture 3D video. It connects performers in Hong Kong and London in real time, and audiences have the option of experiencing the production either in person from The Pit or can join online and take on a more interactive role in the metaverse.
- CN Lester’s Transpose returns to The Pit, showcasing some of the UK’s most exciting trans artists, this time curated and directed by performer, activist, and musician Dani Dinger.
- As previously announced, work from Belgium, the US and Canada as part of the London International Mime Festival 2023: Peeping Tom and Still Life present new work on the main stage in Triptych and FLESH, while Dorothy James & Andy Manjuck and The Old Trouts Puppet Workshop make their debuts in The Pit with Bill’s 44th and Famous Puppet Death Scenes.
Toni Racklin, Head of Theatre and Dance at the Barbican said:
“We’re really pleased to be able to share our spring 2023 programme with you today. Our multidisciplinary season features a wide array of brilliant and ground-breaking artists who are working in the areas of voguing, butoh, poetry, puppetry, welding, ballet, film, VR and gaming technology. There are also Golden Age classics and productions based on modern literary sensations. We’ve got radical blueprints that rethink how touring could become more sustainable, inventive ways of bringing two performers from different sides of the planet into the same room, and durational performance installations. It’s a truly international offer, with extraordinary work from Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Poland, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There’s something for everyone and once again Young Barbican tickets are available for all our productions, and we’ve got benefits for Barbican Members across the season. We do hope you can join us in the new year.”
Tickets go on sale to Barbican Patrons today, to Barbican Members Plus on Thursday 6 October, Barbican Members on Friday 7 October and on general sale on Monday 10 October 2022.
Full programme information
London International Mime Festival 2023
The Old Trout Puppet Workshop – Famous Puppet Death Scenes
Tuesday 24–Saturday 28 January 2023, The PitPress performance: Tuesday 24 January 2023, 7.45pm
An unrelenting sequence of deaths of tiny little puppet people in this charming and slightly eccentric show from the celebrated Canadian puppet masters.
One by one this procession of short melodramas ends unhappily for its hero or heroine. With tongue-in-cheek references to the masterworks of theatre, Old Trout Puppet Workshop cut straight to the chase, taking out all of the boring bits. Prepare to weep.
The Old Trouts are a collective of artists who make puppet shows for adults, books for children, operas and films. Steeped in the world of Edward Gorey and Penny Dreadfuls, they bring artistry and dark humour to favourites including The Feverish Heart by Nordo Frot, I hate my Little Brother by Sally, and The Ballad of Edward Grue by Samuel Groanswallow.
London International Mime Festival 2023
Still Life – FLESHWednesday 25–Saturday 28 January 2023, Barbican Theatre
Press performance: Wednesday 25 January 2023, 7.45pmThis UK debut by rising stars of Belgium’s acclaimed contemporary theatre scene forces us to think about who we are and how much we need others.Still Life’s FLESH is a wordless dark burlesque in four short acts. From the difficulty of a hospital visit, a sophisticated celebration party for two, an embarrassing Titanic movie VR experience to a bizarre, post-funeral family gathering in a pub.FLESH was conceived and directed by Sophie Linsmaux and Aurelio Mergola. Still Life is a Brussels based company making playful, disruptive drama about our need for affection and recognition. This UK premiere follows an acclaimed run at the 2022 Avignon Festival.
London International Mime Festival 2023
Dorothy James & Andy Manjuck – Bill’s 44th
Tuesday 31 January–Saturday 4 February 2023, The Pit
Press performance: Tuesday 31 January 2023, 7.45pm
This poignant, puppet tragicomedy for grown-ups is a wordless spectacle about the ingenuity of the mind and having to make do for so long without the people we wished would surround us.
The streamers are hung, the punch has been poured and the cake is just begging to be eaten. Our anxious host Bill has planned his party to the last detail – choosing the perfect music and dreamy lighting and he’s worked tirelessly on his disco moves. Now all that remains is for guests to arrive. Desperate to fill his apartment with camaraderie and celebration, Bill’s imagination runs riot.Bill’s 44th was originally conceived in 2016 by Brooklyn-based puppeteer Dorothy James and artist Andy Manjuck. It features an original, recorded score and this UK premiere follows acclaimed performances across the United States.
London International Mime Festival 2023
Peeping Tom – Triptych: The missing door, The lost room and The hidden floorThursday 2–Sunday 5 February 2023, Barbican Theatre
Press performance: Thursday 2 February 2023, 7.45pm
Belgium’s Olivier Award-winning dance-theatre innovators return with the UK premiere of their new and most ambitious production.Three enigmatic and seductive stories come together in a trilogy of shifting time, memory and premonition, played out in cinematic scope and atmosphere. The Missing Room brings us to a place where doors will not open; mysteries deepen further onboard a ship in The Lost Room before culminating in the watery, abandoned restaurant setting of The Hidden Floor. Following its Mother/Father/Child series and 32 rue Vandenbranden, Peeping Tom reach new heights of imagination and physical dexterity in this work. A hit at the 2022 Venice Biennale, Triptychplunges audiences into the lives of others with extraordinary dynamism, surprising at every twist and turn.
Kakilang – HOME X
Tuesday 21–Saturday 25 February 2023, The Pit
Press performance: Wednesday 22 February 2023, 7.30pm
Dance performance meets cutting edge technology in this live show that combines theatre, music, gaming and VR technology created with artists in London and Hong Kong.
Mythological and yet futuristic, HOME X is a visually stunning virtual world that connects performers in Hong Kong and London in real-time using depth-sensing cameras that capture 3D video.
Exploring themes of roots and belonging, destruction and renewal, this ground-breaking experimental show features live music, dance and moving real-life experiences of home and migration. Audiences can discover a virtual land inhabited by magical creatures through an impressive 270-degree projection.
With an original score of live electronic music by An-Ting 安婷 in the UK and opera singer Colette Lam performing soprano in Hong Kong; live break dance by choreographers Si Rawlinson in the UK and Suen Nam in Hong Kong.
Kakilang (formerly Chinese Arts Now) are an award-winning organisation who produce work pioneering multi-disciplinary artforms from a wide spectrum of Southeast and East Asian voices.
HOME X will be performed in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin with English surtitles.
Editors please note: there is an opportunity to see Home X on tour before its Barbican run. Please contact the Barbican’s Communications team for more information.
Kakilang – HOME X: Digital Experience
Tuesday 21–Saturday 25 February 2023, Online
Lovers of digital gaming can explore the visually stunning metaverse of HOME X in the online experience that will run in parallel to live performances in the Pit theatre. Audiences can take the ultimate side quest and delve deeper into the magical environment from the comfort of their homes.
HOME X Digital is an interactive online performance that explores the meaning of home using moving real-life experiences from migrant communities. Audiences will be an integral part of the live show, contributing to the story by planting seeds, cutting trees and interacting with the live performers.
Ballet Black – Pioneers
Wednesday 8–Sunday 12 March 2023, Barbican Theatre
Press performance: Thursday 9 March 2023, 7.45pm
Now in their 21st year, Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black presents award-winning choreographers Will Tuckett and Mthuthuzeli November in Pioneers, a captivating double bill of new and original work.Following regular sold-out runs, the acclaimed ballet company returns to our stage with this thrilling and imaginative double bill. Will Tuckett‘s Then Or Now, originally created in 2020, blends classical ballet, music and the poetry of Adrienne Rich to ask the question: in times like these, where do we belong?
Mthuthuzeli November’s By Whatever Means, is a love letter to musician, performer and activist, Nina Simone that combines ballet, jazz and the blues in a moving and inspiring piece of dance theatre.
Ballet Black is transforming the dance landscape by giving a platform to artists of Black and Asian descent as well as to new and established choreographic voices whose unexpected stories and themes come from the heart to resonate with modern audiences.
Complicité/Simon McBurney – Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
Wednesday 15 March–Saturday 1 April 2023, Barbican Theatre
Press performance: Monday 20 March 2023, 7.45pmWorld-renowned company Complicité return to the Barbican stage with a brand-new production based on Nobel prize-winning writer Olga Tokarczuk’s stunning novel, directed by Simon McBurney.
In the bleak Polish midwinter, men in an isolated village are being murdered. The story unfolds through the eyes of local woman Janina, an ex-engineer, environmentalist, amateur astronomer and enthusiastic translator of William Blake. As she takes on the task of identifying the suspect in this deeply captivating mystery, Janina finds herself engaged in fierce resistance against the injustices around her. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is a playful and profound work that asks us to consider what it means to live in harmony with the world around us, our place in the ecosystem, and the perilous consequences we all face if our connection to the natural world is lost.Tokarczuk’s darkly comic, anarchic whodunnit, shortlisted for the 2019 International Booker Prize, caused an uproar in its native Poland upon publication due to its defiant attack on authoritarian structures.
Cheek by Jowl – Life is a Dream (La vida es sueño)
Thursday 13–Sunday 16 April 2023, Barbican Theatre
Press performance: Thursday 13 April 2023, 7,45pmCheek by Jowl take on Calderón’s astonishing play about free will, fate and the mystery of life in this major new production of the Spanish classic.
A prince chained in a mountain. A young woman disguised as a man in search of vengeance. Revolution, love, murder – but is the real truly real, or is it all just a dream? As one of Spanish dramatist Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s best-known and most studied works, Life is a Dream was listed as one of the 40 greatest plays of all time in The Independent.
Created by director Declan Donnellan and designer Nick Ormerod, this is Cheek by Jowl’s first Spanish-language production, performed by an ensemble of Spanish actors. This acclaimed company is an Artistic Associate of the Barbican.
Life is a Dream (La vida es sueño) is performed in Spanish with English surtitlesEditors please note: there is an opportunity to see Life is a Dream on tour in Spain before its Barbican run. Please contact the Barbican’s press team for more information.
Headlong/Katie Mitchell/Barbican – A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction
Wednesday 26–Saturday 29 April 2023, Barbican Theatre
Press performance: Thursday 27 April 2023, 7.45pm
Miranda Rose Hall’s darkly funny, life-affirming show is directed by Katie Mitchell and designed by Moi Tran in a bold experiment in eco theatre-making; created with Headlong, one of the UK’s leading touring companies.Naomi is part of a theatre company who have made a play especially for you, those living through extinction, but the actors haven’t shown up yet. In the meantime, Naomi has a plan.
This one woman show takes us on a life-changing journey to confront the urgent ecological disaster that is unfolding around us. Part ritual, part battle cry, and powered entirely by bicycles, this fiercely feminist production is a moving exploration of what it means to be human in this era of man-made extinction.
Headlong are excited to present an innovative touring model conceived by Katie Mitchell and developed with the support of Jérôme Bel and Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne. The play tours whilst the people and materials do not. Sharing learning from Europe, the Barbican hosts the beginning of this journey, the first of its kind in the UK.
In each city a blueprint of this show will be uniquely brought to life by local teams, in a daring zero travel tour. It forms part of a ground-breaking international experiment in reimagining theatre in a climate crisis.
This is Headlong’s second major touring experiment. They are also the company behind Signal Fires, a national festival during the pandemic that saw over forty touring companies come together for the first time to tour a single idea, at a time when traditional touring was not possible. Together with Katie Mitchell, they continue to rethink theatre making in a time of crisis.
Internationally renowned artist Mitchell has made six pieces about climate change. Both Director and Writer share an artistic and social awareness about the intersection between feminism and eco-activism.
Mitchell is drawing on and furthering her work on the Sustainable Theatre? projectwith this production and tour, which she originally conceived with the support of the French choreographer Jérôme Bel and Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne. The three joined forces to imagine a theatre experiment of international scope that would be ecological both in its content and in its production process. Headlong and Barbican are thrilled to be joining this collaboration and leading in the UK. Mitchell’s previous work with the Barbican includes The Malady of Death (La Maladie de la mort) (2018), The Forbidden Zone (2016), and FräuleinJulie (2013).
Trajal Harrell – Porca Miseria
Friday 12–Sunday 14 May 2023, Barbican Theatre
Press performance: Friday 12 May 2023, 6.15pm
Voguing, Japanese butoh, ancient Greek theatre, performance art and contemporary dance – American choreographer Trajal Harrell conjures up an elegant, subtle vocabulary from a wide range of genres.
This major new trilogy is based on the stories and battles of three very different, but equally strong women: Maggie from Tennessee’s Williams Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the African-American choreographer and activist Katherine Dunham, and the Greek mythological Medea. Through them Harrell explores issues of identity, gender, sexuality and power in a compelling way, breaking down the boundaries between dance, theatre, cinema and the visual arts. Renowned American choreographer Trajal Harrell returns to the Barbican following Hoochie Koochie in 2017. Porca Miseria premiered at Holland Festival in June 2022 where it received critical acclaim.
Rachel Mars – FORGEWednesday 17–Saturday 20 May 2023, The Pit
Press performance: Times vary, please contact the Barbican Communications team to book your timeslot
A powerful durational installation with on stage metal work exploring who memorials are for and what happens to places where traumatic events take place. In 2014 the 100kg iron ‘welcome’ gate was stolen from Dachau concentration camp. A local blacksmith forged a replica. It was exactly like the original. Almost.
Over four days artist Rachel Mars invites you to bear witness as she welds together another copy of the gate. This impactful durational performance installation asks questions about memorials and tackles what it is to preserve a site of collective trauma.
Sound Designer Dinah Mullen creates a live soundtrack, orchestrating an atmospheric sound-world that includes previously recorded metal work, bespoke compositions and a library of Memorial Silences.
Rachel Mars is a performance maker whose smart-witted, intricate work – rooted in Queerness and complex Jewishness – interweaves personal reflection with universal questions. FORGE was developed as part of the Barbican Open Lab programme.
FORGE also features three associated public conversations focussing on personal, local and national/international issues of memorial. Full details will be released soon.
CN Lester – Transpose BURN: Pit PartyThursday 16–Saturday 17 June 2023, The Pit
Press performance: Thursday 16 June 2023, 7.45pm
Acclaimed performer and musician Dani Dinger curates the latest edition of this evening of performance and live music from some of the UK’s most exciting trans artists.
Taking place in Pride month, this year’s Pit Party line-up features explosive performances from artists including activist Erkan Affan’s MOU716 collective, composer and sound manipulator Nneka Cummins, anarchist poet Kell Farshéa and subversive drag artist i-Gemini.
Transpose was founded by artistic director CN Lester in 2011 and has spent over a decade celebrating, promoting, and platforming the wide-ranging talents of the UK trans community. This edition is curated and directed by performer, activist, and musician Dani Dinger and will explore the building blocks of a shared culture, trans identities and offers a direct challenge to the status quo. In the words of CN, it’s a space in which ‘we can show you our vulnerabilities, our strengths and – most of all – our authenticity’.