Jan Lauwers

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media, perception, transformation
Film (feature film)
Performing Arts (dance, theatre)
Europe, Western
created on:
June 12, 2003
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Jan Lauwers


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Jan Lauwers, dramatist and artist, has since the end of the 70´s been one of Belgiums leading men of the theatre. Today he leads Needcompany - one of Europes most prominent theatre companies. He also made his feature film debut 2002 with Goldfish Game.
Jan Lauwers (b. Antwerp, 17th April 1957), dramatist and artist, studied painting at the Academy of Art in Ghent. At the end of 1979 he gathered round him a number of people to form the Epigonenensemble. In 1981 this group was transformed into the Epigonentheater zlv collective which took the theatre world by surprise with its six stage productions. In this way Jan Lauwers took his place in the movement for radical change in Flanders in the early eighties, and also made his international breakthrough.

Epigonentheater zlv presented direct, concrete, highly visual theatre that used music and language as structuring elements. Lauwers´ impact within the group increased, and in 1985 this led to its break up and the formation of Needcompany. Both its operations and its company of actors are distinctly international. Every production is performed in several languages. Needcompany did not have to wait long for international success. Its first productions, Need to Know (1987) and ça va (1989) were still highly visual, but in subsequent productions the storyline and the main theme gained in importance, although the fragmentary composition remained. Lauwers´ training as an 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 non-acting. This specific approach is also to be found in the plays from the classical repertoire (all Shakespeare) that he has staged: Julius Caesar (1990), Antonius und Kleopatra (1992), Needcompany´s Macbeth (1996), Needcompany´s King Lear (2000) and Ein Sturm (2001). After directing Invictos (1996), the monologue SCHADE/Schade (1992) and the opera Orfeo (1993), in 1994 he started work on a large and unusual project called The Snakesong Trilogy. The themes of the three parts of this controversial trilogy were power, sex and death, and the parts were Snakesong/Le Voyeur (1994), Snakesong/Le Pouvoir (1995) and Snakesong/Le Désir (1996). In September 1997 he was a guest in the theatre section of Documenta X, the five-yearly, most trendsetting event in the visual arts, for which he created Caligula, after Camus, the first part of a diptych called No beauty for me there, where human life is rare. In 1998 he staged the reworked version of the whole Snakesong Trilogy, with the music, which plays a decisive role, performed live on stage. With Morning Song (1999), the second part of the diptych No beauty..., Lauwers and Needcompany won an Obie Award in New York.

In May 2000, at the request of William Forsythe, Lauwers created the piece entitled DeaDDogsDon´tDance/DjamesDjoyceDeaD. This was a unique example of cooperation between Needcompany actors and the dancers of the Ballett Frankfurt, resulting in a performance full of humour, good sex and beauty, obtained by bad behaviour and the wrong-time-right-place feeling. In March 2001, at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, he created Ein Sturm, an impressive and radical adaptation of Shakespeare´s The Tempest. Lauwers also has a number of film and video projects to his name, including From Alexandria (1988), Mangia (1995) and Sampled Images (2000). During summer 2001 Lauwers shot his first full-length film with the working title Goldfish Game.

The scenario was written by Lauwers and Dick Crane. At the request of the curator Luk lambrecht, Jan Lauwers subsequently also took part in the Grimbergen 2002 exhibition, for which nine artists created a work in situ (including Thomas Schütte, Lili Dujourie, Job Koelewijn,Atelier Van Lieshout and Ann Veronica Janssens). Images of Affection (2002) the play created for the 15th anniversary of Needcompany, was selected for the Theatre Festival. The thematic quest for a balance between the pessimism of death, violence and war; in this piece it goes down the road of detachment, humour and beauty, which ultimately leads to the lightness and ambiguity of life. It is on the basis of the framework of all these recurring themes that Jan Lauwers continues his examination of the boundaries of theatre.
Author: Tomas Bokstad


Isabella´s Room

Production / Performance,
The newest play from Jan Lauwers was received with exceptional enthusiasm at the Avignon Festival. Inspired by a collection of ethnological and anthropological objects inherited from his father, Lauwers weaves biographical and autobiographical elements around the tale of the fictional Isablella, the story’s narrator. Isabella is the daughter of a desert prince who went missing during an expedition in Africa. At least that is what her foster parents have told her. Following their deaths, Isabella, longing for clues of her beginning, embarks upon a quest. However, the trail leads her not to the desert, but to a room in Paris, filled with ethnological and anthropological objects. The story takes place with Isabella old and blind, looking back over her existence.

Goldfish Game

Film / TV,
Goldfish Game is the first feature film by Jan Lauwers. This modern fable tells the story of a small community of people who are violently torn apart. The tale encompasses both human drama and an anthropological study of the dynamics which hold a group together and work towards its disintegration. At the centre lies death - one’s own death and those of others – as ultimately determining and delimiting all human behaviour. The Italian internet magazine Kinematrix pronounced Goldfish Game the best film in the Formati Anomali category. The jury report said: an innovative style of directing that exceeds the limits of the digital medium. At the Slamdance Film Festival (January 2004) Goldfish Game was awarded the ‘Grand Jury Honour for Best Ensemble Cast’.

Images of Affection

Production / Performance,
Images of affection is a story based on a lie.It is about the lie of preception. About the way emptiness intime and space is fiolled up with a lie. It is a story entangled in a network of contradictory details. A paradox of the truth nd how it penetrates everywhere and fills the emptiness with coloured silence.



Goldfish Game
Isabella´s Room
Images of affection