Dear Friends everywhere,

A few musings on a restless morning in June 2020:

At the time of writing, 380,000 people have died of the virus. 120,000,000 people are currently dying of hunger. The lockdown is tedious for us Westerners, but catastrophic for the vast majority of the world’s population. As an artistic director, I am witnessing the artists with whom we collaborate swapping their elective poverty for enforced poverty. But we live in one of the countries with the best social security provision in the world, and with a highly dynamic cultural sector. Moreover, we live in Europe: this is a luxury in itself. We may have too much bureaucracy, but at least we don’t have a psychopath as president, let alone a dictator. Long live Europe!

There is no doubt that we are facing difficult times, but we have a huge capacity for solidarity and inclusivity which is growing and thriving. I know that we are naïve and are not lobbying as hard as the airlines, but there are far more of us. What’s more, to stick to my area of expertise, we have the best theatre makers and the best audience in the world! Even a virus cannot curb that. We have survived the plague (half of the world’s population dead), the Spanish flu (100 million people dead) and this has never essentially changed art. I don’t believe in customised art. It is always fashionable. Politics and art: that’s really something. An artist driven by ideology generally achieves a poor result.

Malevich did not arrive at a black painted surface through careful study or the sublimation of the form, but through ideological, revolutionary principles: the destruction of history. In itself, this was a negative act. Brâncuși also arrived at totally new forms, but by way of in-depth research and many slow studies. The result looks the same, but is fundamentally different. The former destroys history, whilst the latter embraces that same history. I am confused: Malevich and Brâncuși are very good artists. Ultimately Malevich made stupid paintings on Lenin’s orders.

In Flanders we now have a Ministry of Culture which is manifesting itself ideologically. Isn’t this exactly what we wanted as a ‘left-wing’ cultural sector? An engaged minister? Sure, provided that they hold the same beliefs, otherwise we throw tomatoes, because we are too nice to throw grenades. If the ideology is right, does there need to be a separation between art and state? I wonder if tomorrow an intendant will be painting the walls of some civic theatre black and hanging nationalistic dogmas on its wall. Our theatre first? Long live free speech?

Nationalistic tendencies are once again gaining the upper hand: what must we do if art is no longer allowed to cross the border? If language stays in its language area? Does dance revert back to folklore? Is the globalisation of the arts an elite bubble that is now going to burst? Was the international reflex of the so-called ‘Men of the Eighties’ (Tachtigers) an ego-trip by a few eccentrics? How Italian is Castellucci? How Flemish am I? Oh, to the latter question I can reply: Flemish to the core. (Ask my partner Grace, that unsurpassed Chinese-Dutch-Javanese boat refugee with the most beautiful pitying gaze.)

Of course art must interfere with the world, but what if that world interferes with art? The textbook example of a political ‘art’ moment.

‘We believe that at this point in time, now that there are great achievements in many fields, the supreme worth of the individual personality will once again triumph, also in art …’

These words could plausibly issue from the mouth of a passionate Culture Minister today. We might regard them as hopeful and energetic. In fact they were spoken by Hitler at the opening of his great German Art exhibition in 1937, in parallel with the opening of the ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition: one of the most interesting modern art exhibitions of the 20th century. To show the people how not to do it. This became the ultimate proof that art in a straitjacket is bad art.

Art is not for everyone, but art is there for everyone.

At Needcompany, we had already been working for some time on changing the organisation, making it more inclusive and open-hearted, warmer and more radical. We plan to keep on doing this, and will be presenting you with a few new possibilities in this newsletter.

We strongly believe in the future and welcome Song Louis, the daughter of Romy Louise Lauwers. As well as Rover, the son of Elke Janssens.


Needcompany embarks on a state-of-the-art journey

These are very difficult times for artists, but not for art. In Needcompany’s work, the focus lies not only on the makers, but also on the performers: the actors, performers, dancers and musicians. For a long time, we were one of the largest ensembles in Flanders with 12 actors employed full time. Sadly this has been reduced in recent years to an open-ended ensemble. Nevertheless we are very concerned about the performing artists. We note that quite a few civic theatres intend to focus on solos in the autumn. This is an emergency solution which is still disastrous for performing artists.

At Needcompany we want to go further than just solos, smaller pieces or virtual alternatives as ideas for the future. On the contrary, we are now pouring all our resources into ensuring that larger collaborations continue to be feasible. As well as producing our own performances, for a few years now we have already been co-producing the work of young makers such as Mohamed Toukabri, Lobke Leirens & Maxim Storms, Sung-Im Her, Kuiperskaai, and others. And we provide logistical support to a considerable number of artists. After more than three decades, we are busy re-thinking and re-visiting Needcompany's life story and artistic footprint. Therefore, we are now opening our doors still wider, to explore what new alliances and artistic connections are possible.

The House of Our Fathers / Mothers of Inventions

On 3 and 4 July, in MILL, Needcompany’s laboratory, we will be presenting a durational performance of 2 x 8 hours: The House of Our Fathers /Mothers of Inventions. We will be inviting no fewer than 20 performers of all generations to participate in this marathon. It will be Corona-proof and full of the joy of the making.

The House of Our Fathers is an installation by Jan Lauwers based on recycling that he has already built in a number of key museums. It is an ongoing study into the fundamental difference between production and reproduction, and between an actor and a performance.

With: Anna Sophia Bonnema, Benoît Gob, George van Dam, Grace Ellen Barkey, Hans Petter Dahl, Inge Van Bruystegem, Jan Lauwers, Jules Beckman, Julien Faure, Lot Lemm, Maarten Seghers, Martha Gardner, Meron Verbelen, Misha Downey, Mohamed Toukabri, Oscar van der Put, Pierrick Drochmans, Romy Louise Lauwers, Simon Lenski, Victor Lauwers, Viviane De Muynck, Yumiko Funaya


With MILL’S BEAUTY SALON we are explicitly committed to supporting artists. We have designed this initiative, to the value of 10,000 euros, to give artists the opportunity to think and create timelessly and not in a results-oriented way. Stay tuned. This call will soon be widely communicated.

"To date, there is no interesting alternative.
Theatre, the oldest medium in the arts, cannot be improved."

– Jan Lauwers

Intolleranza 1960

On Sunday 9 August the opera Intolleranza 1960, directed by Jan Lauwers, was due to premiere during the 100th anniversary edition of the Salzburger Festspiele. Moreover, this unique collaboration between Needcompany and the Wiener Philharmoniker, led by conductor Ingo Metzmacher, was to be one of the highlights of the festival. Because of Coronavirus, the anniversary edition in Salzburg is being radically overhauled. Of course, a performance with more than two hundred performers is currently impossible. Both intendant Markus Hinterhäuser and Jan Lauwers and Ingo Metzmacher agreed that it was essential to perform the work without compromise. So rather than deliver it in some mangled version, it will be postponed until next season.

(Not) on tour

Due to the measures announced by the Belgian Federal Government to halt the spread of Coronavirus, our performances of All The Good and FOREVER in Antwerp, Toulouse, Martigues, Turin, Sibiu and Poznań have been postponed. We are currently looking for new performance dates next season. The following dates have already been confirmed:

All the good: 23 and 24 November 2020
Toneelhuis (Antwerp)

FOREVER: 4, 5 and 6 November 2020
Théâtre Garonne (Toulouse)

Sibiu International Theatre Festival in Romania is working on a special online edition of the festival this year and is screening the film The blind poet by Jan Lauwers & Needcompany. All The Good will be presented there in June 2021.

Probabilities of Independent Events

Especially for the opening of December Dance ’19, along with the Needcompany orchestra and the second year dance students at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp, Grace Ellen Barkey created Probabilities of Independent Events. The composer Rombout Willems took care of the arrangements and musical direction.

In October, Grace Ellen Barkey & Needcompany will be repeating this tour de force. This time with students from Zurich’s Tanzwerk101 dance school and in collaboration with Theater Casino Zug. Probabilities of Independent Events will be performed there on 23 and 24 October.

"In 'Probabilities of Independent Events', the enthusiasm of the dancers and musicians is incredibly infectious. It is as though Grace Ellen Barkey is trying to say that we must not forget our dreams in these trying times."

– Pzazz

Molly Bloom

In 1999, Viviane De Muynck and Jan Lauwers set to work with the work of James Joyce. After sending a number of offensive letters, James Joyce’s grandson, Stephen J. Joyce, expressly forbade them to use the material. Despite this ban, a few clandestine readings took place in Germany which were picked up by the press. Now the copyright on Joyce’s work has expired, Needcompany is seizing the opportunity to finally stage this piece.

Molly Bloom presents the inner monologue of Leopold Bloom’s unfaithful wife. Molly Bloom as a symbol of femininity, her thoughts on the men in her life, her current situation, her memories, her sense of humour, her zest for life, and how she copes with loss and regret.

Premiere on 4 November at La Filature (Mulhouse). Then on tour.

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