Needcompany in co-production with the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre!

16 czerwca 2023

The international and interdisciplinary arts collective Needcompany will perform at the 27th international Shakespeare Festival with the premiere of “Billy’s Joy”. The Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre is the Polish co-producer of the performance.

In 2021, the festival audience could see a performance of “Billy’s Violence”. This was the beginning of the story of a diptych about Shakespeare’s works. It referred to the violence in the Stratforian’s plays.

In “Billy’s Violence,” Victor Afung Lauwers analysed ten tragedies by Shakespeare, rewriting them as dramatically sensitive intimate dialogues between a woman and a man, deprived of any historical references or anegdoctal meanings. In doing so, he focused on the violent aspect women were the victims of: Portia, Cleopatra, Ophelia, Lavinia, Cordelia, Desdemona, or Lady Macbeth. Aggression, rape, death affected different protagonists. According to Louwers, Shakespeare is not much different from Quentin Tarantino.
The famous Belgian group wanted to continue working on Shakespeare’s plays. In “Billy’s Joy,” Victor Afung Lauwers transfers Romeo from the famous tragedy to a comedy. Romeo finds himself in a fairyland. Will this story have a happy ending? We will have to find out on the 4th and 5th of August during the Shakespeare Festival.

“Happiness has many aspects. I want to focus on one of them – reconciliation. Reconciliation is a concept that can be talked about a lot. It forms an important theme in Shakespeare’s comedy writing. The notion that comedies are funny, and tragedies are not, is in fact an interpretative mistake. The only difference in poetics between a comedy and a tragedy (according to Aristotle) is that comedy ends well, and tragedy does not (…) Not much can be said about the relevance of Shakespeare. Indeed, performances of plays from the canon, such as Shakespeare’s plays, have long been unnecessary. Hence, it is not my intention to create a canonical performance. Rather, I mean history – our weaknesses. Who does not want to learn about the past, does not want to learn about himself. Dealing with the past is a fundamental question of identity, not to say a fundamental right, and there is not a single person or institution in a society, where reconciliation is possible, that can deprive an artist or his audience of this right,” – says Victor Afung Lauwers.

Needcompany is an artistic collective founded by artists Jan Lauwers and Grace Ellen Barkey in 1986. Maarten Seghers has been a member of Needcompany since 2001. Lauwers, Barkey and Seghers form the group’s core. Their creative work includes theatre and dance performances, as well as visual and writing projects. They perform at the most important art centres in Belgium and abroad.
Needcompany brings together an international, multilingual, and interdisciplinary community of creators. This diversity is reflected in the composition of the team, in which at least seven nationalities are usually represented. Over the years, numerous artistic groups have emerged within Needcompany, including: Lemm & Barkey (Grace Ellen Barkey and Lot Lemm) and OHNO COOPERATION (Elke Janssens, Maarten Seghers, Jan Lauwers). Needcompany focuses on an individual artist and their creative process. The fundamental values of the group are authenticity, inevitability, and meaning. The medium itself is being constantly questioned, with artists placing significant importance on examining the relationship between the content and the form it takes. Needcompany believes in quality, innovation, and cooperation.

For many years, the group has been a leading voice in the international debate on the fundamental importance of beauty and art in social life.