Lauwers, Jan

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) – which for Needcompany received the Mobiel Pegasus Preis – 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, at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, 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 project called The Snakesong Trilogy: Snakesong/Le Voyeur (1994), Snakesong/Le Pouvoir (1995) and Snakesong/Le Désir (1996). In 1998 he staged the reworked version of the whole Snakesong Trilogy.