Barbican December 2017 highlights

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Rome MMXVII season continues with three of Shakespeare’s most gripping plays, Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra and Titus Andronicus. The plays expose the decadence, politics, power play and corruption of Ancient Rome, charting the decline of an empire from birth to eventual implosion.

Winners of this year’s Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award, Mars.tarrab performs the world premiere of ROLLER in The Pit. This Barbican co-production is an energy-packed performance by Rachel Mars and nat tarrab investigating female competition, ageing and power through the fast-growing sport - roller derby.

The egg theatre and Travelling Light Theatre Company's bring their festive production of Snow Mouse to The Pit in an enchanting tale for babies, the very young and their families.

Unsound, one of the world’s foremost festivals of electronic and experimental music returns to the Barbican, as part of its Dislocation series.

Cinema Matters, the Barbican’s year-long series exploring cinema’s impact on the world concludes with Time, Memory, Dream.

Barbican Cinema celebrates the centenary of Finnish independence with a season of films curated by the Midnight Sun Film Festival.

Basquiat: Boom for Real, continues in the Art Gallery until 28 Jan - the first large-scale exhibition in the UK of the work of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960­-1988). The exhibition brings together an outstanding selection of more than 100 works, many never seen before in the UK.

Commissioned especially for the Curve, British artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah’s new work Purple is an immersive, six-channel video installation charting incremental shifts in climate change across the planet. Barbican Cinema screens a series of films which have influenced John Akomfrah’s work.


Basquiat: Boom for Real

Thu 21 Sep 2017–Sun 28 Jan 2018, Barbican Art Gallery


Basquiat: Boom for Real is the first large-scale exhibition in the UK of the work of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960­—1988). One of the most significant painters of the 20th century, Basquiat came of age in the post-punk underground art scene in Lower Manhattan in the late 1970s. By 1982, he had gained international recognition and was the youngest ever artist to participate in Documenta in Kassel. Basquiat’s vibrant, raw imagery springs from an impressive erudition, seen in the fragments of bold capitalised text that abound in his works — offering insights into both his encyclopaedic interests and his experience as a young artist with no formal training. Since his tragic death in 1988, Basquiat has had remarkably little exposure in the UK – where there is not a single work in a public collection. More than any other exhibition to date, Basquiat: Boom for Real focuses on the artist’s relationship to music, text, film and television, placing it within the wider cultural context of the time. Paintings, drawings and notebooks are presented alongside rare film, photography, music and ephemera in a design that aims to capture the dynamism of Basquiat’s practice. These exhibits are brought together for the first time in 35 years, allowing visitors to understand how Basquiat so quickly won the admiration of his fellow artists and critics.

For full press release and images please visit:

Guest Curator Dieter Buchhart explores Basquiat’s pioneering artistic practice in an Exhibition Tour on Thursday 7 December and a special evening at the Ace Hotel focuses on the ways in which Basquiat continues to influence music, fashion and street art culture today in Basquiat and Club Culture on Thursday 14 December. For event information, please visit

John Akomfrah: Purple
Fri 6 Oct 2017–Tue 7 Jan 2018, The Curve, Barbican Centre

Free Admission


Barbican Art Gallery presents a new commission by British artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah for the Curve. His most ambitious project to date, Purple is an immersive, six-channel video installation which charts the incremental shifts in climate change across the planet and its effects on human communities, biodiversity and the wilderness. As the follow up to Vertigo Sea (2015), Akomfrah’s standout work at the 56th Venice Biennale, Purple forms the second chapter in a planned quartet of films addressing the aesthetics and politics of matter. Symphonic in scale and divided into six interwoven movements, Akomfrah has combined hundreds of hours of archival footage with newly shot film and a hypnotic sound score to produce the video installation. Akomfrah’s Purple brings a multitude of ideas into conversation including mammalian extinctions, the memory of ice, the plastic ocean and global warming.

To coincide with Purple, John Akomfrah selects a series of films which have influenced his work and life over the years, including Far From Vietnam, Salvatore Giuliano, Memories of Underdevelopment, and in a digital restoration by Martin Scorcese’s Film Foundation The Night of Counting the Years (aka The Mummy).

For information on talks programmed as part of Architecture on Stage and Magnum Photos Now, please visit


Unsound Dislocation: London

Fri 8 Dec 2017, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm

Unsound, one of the world’s foremost festivals of electronic and experimental music returns to the Barbican on 8 December as part of its Dislocation series. Curated by Unsound artistic director, Mat Schulz. Unsound Dislocation: London explores geography and identity though three sets including Unsound-commissioned works, a world premiere, and audio/visual collaborations. Together these works take the audience on a journey through Arctic Russia, Poland, Brazil, the UK and beyond, featuring;

NIVHEK (Liz Harris/ Grouper) performing After its own death, alongside visual artist Marcel Weber, also known as MFO. The work, which resulted from a residency in the Russian Arctic, explores landscape, nostalgia and isolation through sound and image. After its own death is commissioned by Unsound, the Barbican and Goethe-Institut.

A world premiere and live performance by The Caretaker aka Leyland Kirby of V/VM which marks the Krakow-based artist’s first return to his homeland in six years. The performance draws from an extensive project exploring dementia via six albums released over a three year period. The video for the piece will be created by Weirdcore, a visual collaborator of Aphex Twin.

London-based electronic musician felicita with traditional dancers from the renowned Śląsk Song and Dance Ensemble performing Soft Power, a work commissioned especially for Unsound which synthesizes traditional choreography and costume with new music to create a hypnotic multimedia experience. The presentation has been produced as part of the international cultural programme accompanying Poland’s centenary of regaining independence.

Following the Barbican Hall performances, Lebanese-born and Berlin-based artist Rabih Beaini takes to the Barbican’s ClubStage to play a DJ set incorporating techno, jazz, music from the Middle East, Indonesia and much more.

Cecilia Bartoli & Sol

Dolce Duello: Baroque arias for voice and cello

Fri 1 Dec 2017, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm

Celebrated Italian coloratura mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli makes a welcome return to the Barbican, on this occasion with renowned Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta (who performed in the First Night of the Proms in 2016) accompanied by the Cappella Gabetta ensemble led by concertmaster Andrés Gabetta. The Cappella Gabetta was established by Sol and her brother Andrés in 2010, and is devoted to baroque and early classical repertoire, performed on period instruments. Cecilia and Sol have devised a programme of colourful Baroque duos, showcasing both voice and cello.

Les Arts Florissants/ Monteverdi: Selva morale e spirituale

Sat 9 Dec 2017, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm

Baroque musical ensemble Les Arts Florissants and founder/conductor William Christie give a rare performance of Monteverdi’s comprehensive anthology of sacred vocal music, fittingly in the year that marks the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth. Published at the end of the composer’s career in 1641, the collection is regarded as the composer’s most significant anthology of liturgical works since the Vespers in 1610. The event features a stellar cast, including sopranos Lucia Martin Caron and Emmanuelle De Negri, countertenor Carlo Vistoli, tenors Cyril Auvity and Reinoud Van Mechelen, and basses Marc Mauillon, Cyril Costanzo, and John Taylor Ward.


Royal Shakespeare Company – Julius Caesar

Fri 24 Nov 2017–Sat 20 Jan 2018, Barbican Theatre

Press performance: Tue 12 Dec 2017, 1pm

Angus Jackson directs Shakespeare’s epic political tragedy, as the race to claim the empire spirals out of control.

Caesar returns from war, an all-conquering hero, but mutiny is rumbling through the corridors of power. Although Brutus loves Caesar, he is persuaded to kill him for the greater good, and like all conspirators loses control of the consequences.

Season Director Angus Jackson steers the thrilling action of the story that continues to define all political backstabbing, with spin and betrayal turning to violence. The cast includes Andrew Woodall in the title role alongside Alex Waldmann as Brutus.

Royal Shakespeare Company – Antony & Cleopatra

Thu 30 Nov 2017–Sat 20 Jan 2018, Barbican Theatre

Press performance: Tue 12 Dec 2017, 7pm

One of Shakespeare’s greatest love stories, Antony & Cleopatra continues the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Rome season, picking up the story where Julius Caesar ends.

Following Caesar’s assassination, Mark Antony has reached the heights of power. Now he neglects his empire for a life of decadent seduction with his mistress, Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Torn between love and duty, his military brilliance deserts him, and his passion leads the lovers to their tragic end.

Known for his fresh and urgent interpretations of Shakespeare, Iqbal Khan directs Josette Simon and Antony Byrne in the title roles. Singer-songwriter Laura Mvula writes the music for the production.

Royal Shakespeare Company – Titus Andronicus

Thu 7 Dec 2017–Fri 19 Jan 2018, Barbican Theatre

Press performance: Thursday 14 December 2017, 7pm

The decay of Rome reaches vicious depths in Shakespeare’s most brutal and bloody play. Blanche McIntyre directs the epic conclusion of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Rome season.

Titus is a ruler exhausted by war and loss. He relinquishes power but leaves Rome in disorder. Rape, cannibalism and severed body parts fill the moral void at the heart of this corrupt world.

Shakespeare’s gory revenge depicts murder as entertainment. As the body count piles up, the tragedy poses questions about the nature of sexuality, family, class and society. David Troughton leads the cast.

The Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award 2017: Mars.tarrab – ROLLER

Thu 23 Nov–Sat 2 Dec 2017, The Pit

Press performance: Fri 24 Nov 2017, 7.45pm

Full contact, female-focused, self-organising and community run – roller derby is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. Fascinated by its popularity, Rachel Mars and nat tarrab have risked life and limb to create an energy-packed performance investigating female competition, ageing and power.

The irresistible duo put their skates on in a bid to understand what roller derby can reveal about bodies, economics and belonging. Throwing off the terrible memories of school sports, they jostle with the status quo, creating their own alternative teams of diverse women to collaborate on this visual show.

Winners of this year’s Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award, their work is fuelled by curiosity, queerness, rigorous research and the smashing together of the gut-wrenching and the gleeful.

CN Lester – Transpose: Barbican

Fri 8–Sat 9 Dec 2017, The Pit

Press performance: Fri 8 Dec 2017, 7.45pm

Curated by and featuring CN Lester, activist, author and singer-songwriter, this is the second Transpose: Barbican following its successful debut here last autumn.

An illuminating theatrical journey with artists from the queer and trans communities, they share poetry, music, video art and storytelling with a revelatory quality.

New collaborators such as operatic soprano Alexandra Bork and classical pianist Nicholas Bonadies join young poet Jamie Hale whose confessional spoken word stole the hearts of the audience in 2016.

The egg and Travelling Light Theatre Company – Snow Mouse

Wed 13 – Sat 23 Dec 2017, The Pit

Press performances: Thu 14 Dec 2017, 10.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm

In Snow Mouse two friends embark on an adventure in a magical forest full of play, music and wonder in this enchanting tale for babies and the very young to enjoy with their families.

Entering The Pit, it’s as though winter has arrived, with woods covered in sparkly snow. A child runs outside but soon feels lonely. Drawn by a sound, the child finds a sleeping mouse buried under the soft white flakes. Together they explore, sliding, tumbling and laughing.

The egg theatre, based in Bath and Bristol’s Travelling Light Theatre Company

combine an endearing puppet, one performer (Frank Wurzinger) lots of giggles and a tactile set perfect for audiences to sit close to the action.


Finland: Independence Day
Wed 29 Nov - Sun 3 Dec 2017, Cinema 2

Celebrating the centenary of Finnish independence with a season of films curated by the Midnight Sun Film Festival, Finland’s coolest film event. Founded in 1986 by Finnish filmmakers Mika and Aki Kaurismäki, the festival is located in the village of Sodankylä, in the heart of Finnish Lapland, some 120 kilometres from the Arctic Circle, where audiences watch films 24 hours a day, as the summer sun never sets. In December, Barbican Cinema screens The Year of the Hare (Jäniksen vuosi) (1977); People in the Summer Night (Ihmiset suviyössä) (1948); and Little Wing (Tyttö nimeltä Varpu) (2016).

Presented in partnership with the Finnish Film Foundation and National Audiovisual Institute

Cinema Matters Part 6 - Time, Memory, Dream
Thu 2 Nov - Sun17 Dec 2017, Cinema 3

In the final part of a year-long series exploring cinema’s impact on the world, Time, Memory, Dream examines film as a medium that inscribes and unspools in time, and its specific innovations in relation to the representation of time, memory and dreams. December screenings include Peter Weir's unsettling dreamscape Picnic At Hanging Rock; and widely credited as one of the finest British films ever made, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

John Akomfrah Presents: Memories of Underdevelopment (15)
Tue 12 Dec 2017, 8.45pm, Cinema 2

To complement his exhibition Purple in the Curve, John Akomfrah selects films that have inspired his work and world view.

Memories of Underdevelopment shows Cuba at a critical moment in its history, and offers an insightful reflection on being an outsider at a time of change. Sergio, a wealthy man, stays behind while the rest of his family leaves for the States following the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. Sceptical of the promises of a new Cuba, Sergio feels alone in a brave new world. It was the subtlety and sophistication of its political analysis – exceptional in a product of Cuba’s state-sponsored film industry of the time – plus its stylistic virtuosity, which led this film to become the first from post-revolutionary Cuba to gain widespread international acclaim.

Meet Me in St Louis (U)
Wed 13 Dec 2017, 8.30pm, Cinema 3

One of the most joyful and exuberant of the classic MGM musicals, this period family story set at the time of the 1904 World's Fair, was shot in glorious technicolor as a wonderful tonic to the grim background of World War 2 reality. Judy Garland is at her best as literally the girl next door, whilst also giving some of her greatest screen singing performances including The Trolley Song and the festive classic Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Directed with verve and style by Vincente Minnelli who would soon become Garland's real life husband.

London International Animation Festival (LIAF) 2017
1-10 Dec, Cinemas 1 & 3

The UK’s largest animation festival returns for its 14th year with the best international and local shorts and features, including International Showcases, special children’s screenings and the ever-popular The Best of the Fest. Local and international guests include the world’s most adventurous, innovative and ‘impishly perverse’ filmmaker David OReilly, the team behind Barcelona's Punto Y Raya Festival exploring pure form, colour, motion and sound and 'Female Figures' a timely panel discussion and screening about the onscreen representation of women. Features include Cleopatra, a newly rediscovered Japanese Anime by the Godfather of Manga, Osamu Tezuka and a special screening of Academy Award nominee and festival favourite Don Hertzfeldt's hugely anticipated World of Tomorrow films.