“forte forte” brings Jan Lauwers and “Needcompany” to Riga
The contemporary theatre programme “forte forte”, run by the New Theatre Institute of Latvia, is a year-long series of performances by leading European theatre artists, and part of the “Riga 2014” programme’s thematic division “Freedom Street”.
The programme features artists popular worldwide for their signature style and performances that centre on the relationships between the individual and power, personality and masses, as well as ordinary members of society, set against the background of major historical events, yet within routine contexts. The programme opened in January with a week dedicated to Latvian stage director Alvis Hermanis, whereas this March, the programme presents performances of “Isabella’s Room” by Flemish artist Jan Lauwers and “Needcompany”.
Jan Lauwers, a pioneer of visual, eclectic and international theatre, is one of the artists who paved the way for profound changes in Flemish theatre at the beginning of the 1980s. Lauwers founded “Needcompany” together with choreographer Grace Ellen Barkey in 1986, finding a new dimension in theatre aesthetics where theatre, dance, performance and visual art come together.
“Needcompany” is an international and multidisciplinary theatre company made up of artists of various nationalities and genres who all collaborate in the staging of every new performance. Lauwers’ academic background in painting has left a lasting impact on his approach to theatre, and that explains, in part, his highly individual theatrical language, which in many ways remains innovative to this day.
Lauwers’ performances are noted for transparent and cogent acting, exploration of the paradox of performance and non-performance, synthesis of contemporary dance, theatre, literature, visual art and live music into a coherent work of art.
The latest important work by “Needcompany” is the trilogy “Sad Face / Happy Face”, where each of the three parts deals with a different way of telling a story. “Isabella’s Room” is the first part of the trilogy. Since 2009 Jan Lauwers and “Needcompany” are artists in residence at the Burgtheater in Vienna. A recent international survey named Lauwers, along with Alvis Hermanis, Romeo Castellucci, “Rimini Protokoll” and others, one of the ten most influential personalities in European theatre.
“Isabella’s Room”, which will be performed at the Ķīpsala Exhibition Hall on 19 and 20 March at 7 p.m., is dedicated to Jan Lauwers’ father - amateur archaeologist and anthropologist Felix Lauwers who bequeathed several thousand artefacts to his son, mostly from Africa. The performance tells the story of Isabella, performed by the outstanding Flemish actress Viviane De Muynck. This is a story that spans almost the entire 20th century: World War I and II, Hiroshima, the colonial period, the development of modern art, travel to the moon, David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”, poverty and famine in Africa. The 94-year-old and blind Isabella is telling, dancing and singing her life together with all the people who are important to her but have long since died - foster parents Anna and Arthur, her childhood that she spent together with her foster-parents living in a lighthouse on an island and her lovers Alexander and Frank.
“Isabella’s Room” is a unique phenomenon in European contemporary theatre, being performed for the tenth year already (the play was premiered at Festival d’Avignon in 2004). Having been performed all over the world, and following an impressive tour of China and Taiwan, “Isabella’s Room” now visits Riga.
Tickets: EUR 15 and EUR 10 (for schoolchildren, students, pensioners, disabled people), available at “Biļešu paradīze” outlets and online shop.