Jan Lauwers (Antwerp, 1957) is an artist who works in just about every medium. Over the last twenty years he has become best known for his pioneering work for the stage with Needcompany, which was founded in Brussels in 1986. Needcompany has been artist-in-residence at the Burgtheater in Vienna since 2009. Over the years he has also built up a substantial body of art work which was shown in an exhibition at BOZAR (Brussels) in 2007. Jan Lauwers is awarded with the ‘Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic Austria’ (2012). In 2014, he has been rewarded with the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award at the Venice Biennale. He is the first Belgian to receive this prize in the theatre category.

Jan Lauwers studied painting at the Academy of Art in Ghent. At the end of 1979 he gathers round him a number of people to form the Epigonenensemble. In 1981 this group is transformed into the Epigonentheater zlvcollective which takes the theatre-world by surprise with its six stage productions. In this way Jan Lauwers takes his place in the movement for radical change in Flanders in the early ‘80, and makes his international breakthrough. Epigonentheater zlvpresents direct, concrete, highly visual theatre that uses music and language as structuring elements. Their productions areAlready Hurt and not yet War (1981), dE demonstratie (1983), Bulletbird (1983), Background of a Story (1984) and Incident (1985). Jan Lauwers disbands this collective in 1985 and founds Needcompany.

Jan Lauwers needs company. He founds Needcompany together with Grace Ellen Barkey. They together are responsible for Needcompany larger-scale productions. Since Needcompany was founded in 1986, both its work and its performers have been markedly international. Its first productions, Need to Know (1987) and ça va (1989) are still highly visual, but in subsequent productions the storyline and the main theme gain in importance, although the fragmentary composition remains.

Lauwers’ training as a visual artist is decisive in his handling of the theatre medium and leads to a highly individual and in many ways pioneering theatrical idiom that examines the theatre and its meaning. One of its most important characteristics is a transparent, ‘thinking’ acting and the paradox between ‘acting’ and ‘performing’.


Need to Know
première: 24 March 1987, Mickery, Amsterdam

ça va
première: 18 March 1989, Theater am Turm, Frankfurt

Julius Caesar
première: 31 May 1990, Rotterdamse Schouwburg

première: 18 May 1991, Centro Andaluz de Teatro, Sevilla

Antonius und Kleopatra
première: 14 February 1992, Theater am Turm, Frankfurt

première: 21 October 1992, Theater am Turm, Frankfurt

opera by Walter Hus
première: 23 May 1993, Bourlaschouwburg, Antwerp

The Snakesong Trilogy - Snakesong/Le Voyeur
première: 24 March 1994, Theater am Turm, Frankfurt

The Snakesong Trilogy - Snakesong/Le Pouvoir (Leda)
première: 11 May 1995, Dance 95, Munich

Needcompany's Macbeth
première: 26 March 1995, Lunatheater, Brussels

The Snakesong Trilogy - Snakesong/Le Désir
première: 6 November 1996, Kanonhallen, Kopenhagen

Caligula, No beauty for me there, where human life is rare, part one première: 5 September 1997, Documenta X, Kassel

The Snakesong Trilogy
reworked version with live music
première: 16 April 1998, Lunatheater, Brussels

Morning Song, No beauty for me there, where human life is rare, part two
première: 13 January 1999, Lunatheater, Brussels

Needcompany’s King Lear
première: 11 January 2000, Lunatheater, Brussels

DeaDDogsDon´tDance/ DjamesDjoyceDeaD
première: 12 May 2000, Das TAT, Frankfurt

Ein Sturm
première: 22 March 2001, Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg

Images of Affection
première: 28 February 2002, Stadsschouwburg Brugge

No Comment
première: 24 April 2003, Kaaitheater Brussels

Isabella's room
première: 9 July 2004, Cloître des Carmes, Festival d’Avignon

All is Vanity
première: 8 July 2006, Théâtre Municipal, Festival d’Avignon

The Lobster Shop
première: 10 July 2006, Cloître des Célestins, Festival d’Avignon

The Deer House
première: 28 July 2008, Perner-Insel, Hallein, Salzburger Festspiele

Sad Face / Happy Face
première: 1 August 2008, Perner-Insel, Hallein, Salzburger Festspiele

The art of enertainment
premiere: 5 March 2011, Akademietheater (Burgtheater), Vienna

premiere: 17 May 2012, Kasino (Burgtheater), Vienna

Marketplace 76
premiere: 7 September 2012, Ruhrtriennale, Jahrhunderthalle, Bochum

Begin the Beguine
premiere: 1 March 2014, Akademietheater (Burgtheater), Vienna