A festival of Shakespeare
© Maarten Vanden Abeele

At the beginning of December, Jan Lauwers started rehearsals for Billy’s Violence. Several weeks of working together, months of living with the material, text, characters are ahead of the cast and crew, to conclude in July 2021, with the opening night of the show.

What does it mean to get back to Shakespeare now, in 2020, when we can hear more and more scepticism on Shakespeare – whether contemporary theatre still needs this author, do we need another adaptation of Hamlet or Macbeth, or shall we ban staging his plays for some years to get more air for new texts? “Everything is in Shakespeare, that’s why it is brilliant,” – claims Jan Lauwers, and admits that years ago his motivation to work with this material was related to its historical context.

Billy’s Violence marks a new chapter in Jan Lauwers’ conversation with Shakespeare. This time, the text is a new play by Victor Afung Lauwers - a poet - inspired and influenced by ten tragedies written at the turn of the sixth and seventeenth centuries. In the centre of the play lies the entanglement of love, intimacy and violence. Jan Lauwers admits that with Billy’s Violence, he feels much more freedom as a director and asks new questions about the collectivity of working together and the aim of making theatre. 

To contextualise Billy’s Violence both on the timeline of Needcompany’s history, and in the very moment of our contemporary experience, we present the archival audiovisual documentation of three Shakespearian performances directed by Jan Lauwers: Julius Caesar (1990), Needcompany’s Macbeth (1996) and the powerful fifth act of King Lear (2000), together with two accompanying text: Why Shakespeare? – by Jan Lauwers, and EXERCISES IN REGICIDE. Dramaturgy and Space in Needcompany’s Versions of Shakespeare by Klaas Tindemans.

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