Barbican February 2018 highlights

  • Throughout 2018, the Barbican celebrates The Art of Change – looking at how the arts respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape across all art forms.
  • In February, Barbican Art Gallery stages major exhibition Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins  and artist Yto Barrada creates her first major London commission for the Curve Gallery. In the theatre, UK theatre-makers Told by an Idiot use their trademark working practices to tackle the lack of diversity on stage in Let Me Play the Lion Too.  In the music programme, the Barbican  co-presents the UK Premiere of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking  with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra recreates Benny Goodman’s legendary debut at Carnegie Hall in 1938 as part of its Barbican residency.
  • Elsewhere in the programme, the London International Mime Festival continues in the theatre with Belgian theatre collective FC Bergman who present the UK premiere of 300 el x 50 el x 30 el ; Belgian choreographer and director Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui directs a new show honouring the Japanese art form of manga in Pluto , Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia returns to the Barbican with a new production, Smile Upon Us, Lord and the cult 1967 novel Picnic at Hanging Rock is given a dramatic retelling, directed by Matthew Lutton.
  • Nils Frahm returns to the live stage and Jonas Kaufmann is also back at the Barbican, with Diana Damrau, after his 2017 residency.
  • The Barbican Cinema presents an ‘alternative’ Valentine’s offering with Henri-Georges Clouzot’s My Twisted Valentine and Science on Screen continues with Spike Jonze’s Her.



Flying Trees and Sunken Squares
Fri 20 Oct 2017– Tue 20 Mar 2018, Barbican Foyer, Ground level
Free Admission

Flying Trees and Sunken Squares is the fifth of the changing foyer displays. It explores the history and design of the Barbican Estate and Arts Centre through a number of different sources. A selection of books from founding architects Chamberlin, Powell & Bon partner Geoffrey Powell bring to light references from continental Europe and inspiration from the English garden. The selection of archival drawings and illustrations conveys the interweaving of artifice and nature and finally, at its centre, the Conservatory’s historical drawings and newly commissioned photographs of its species celebrate the glass and steel design of this botanical marvel and hidden garden.

Yto Barrada
Wed 7 Feb – Sun 20 May 2018, The Curve, Barbican Centre
Media view: Tue 6 Feb, 10am –1pm
Free Admission

Supported using funding from Arts Council England
*Part of the Barbican’s 2018 season The Art of Change*

For spring 2018, Barbican Art Gallery has invited artist Yto Barrada to create her first major London commission for the Curve. Working across photography, film, sculpture, textile, installation and publications, Barrada explores the subversive tactics and strategies of resistance developed to deal with everything from the mundanities of everyday life to shifts in power and migration, often focusing on her native Morocco. Barrada traces the hidden transcripts of objects and people in her work, guiding us through the overlapping realities and fictions of their narratives.

Documenting the visual languages of the everyday to expose overarching structures of authority, Barrada’s projects interrogate ideas around colonialism, ethnography, archaeology, authenticity and myth-making.

For information and images please visit:

Another Kind of Life. Photography on the Margins
Wed 28 Feb – Sun 27 May 2018, Barbican Art Gallery
Media view: Tue 27 Feb 2018, 10am –1pm

*Part of the Barbican’s 2018 season The Art of Change*

At a time when individual rights are being contested and those on the fringes of society feel ever more marginalised from mainstream political and social narratives, the exhibition Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins celebrates and explores photography’s enduring relationship with individuals and communities who operate on the margins or openly flout social conventions through the work of 20 photographers including Bruce Davidson, Paz Errazuriz, Casa Susanna Collection, Larry Clark, Mary Ellen Mark, Boris Mikhailov and Dayanita Singh.

Driven by motivations both personal and political, many of the photographers in the exhibition sought to provide an authentic representation of disenfranchised communities–from transgender to bikers, street urchins to junkies, gang members to survivalists – often conspiring with them to construct their own identity through the camera lens. The works in Another Kind of Life present the outsider as an agent of change. The non-conventional subject is here a prism through which to view the world afresh. 

Artists have historically been instrumental in presenting the image of the outsider for a wider public. Employing a diverse set of aesthetic strategies from portraiture to social documentary and vernacular to street photography, the artists in the exhibition approach their subject with a humanity and empathy that is both empowering and inclusive. 

Reflecting a more diverse, more complex and more authentic view of the world, Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins touches on themes of gender and sexuality, drugs, youth culture and minorities of all kinds and includes bodies of work from Japan to the US, and from Chile to Nigeria. By recording and documenting those on the margins, the images in the exhibition bear witness to how social attitudes change across time and space, charting how visual representation has helped shape current discourse in relation to marginalised or alternative communities.

For information and images please visit:

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


Jonas Kaufmann and Diana Damrau
Fri 16 Feb 2018, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm

Following his Barbican Residency in February 2017, the celebrated tenor Jonas Kaufmann returns to the stage with another celebrity singer of comparable stature, Diana Damrau. Joined by Helmut Deutsch on piano, the duo will perform Wolf’s Italianisches Liederbuch, a set of 26 songs that wed the composer’s mastery of the German Lieder tradition to the folk lyrics of the Mediterranean. Wolf himself described the work as ‘the most original and artistically the most perfect of all my works’.

Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking (UK Premiere)
Tue 20 Feb 2018, Barbican Hall, 7pm
*Part of the Barbican’s 2018 season The Art of Change*

The Barbican and the BBC Symphony Orchestra co-present the UK premiere of Jake Heggie’s first opera Dead Man Walking  (which had its world premiere in 2000) – one of the most political and most widely-performed operas in the US. Dead Man Walking is based on the autobiographical account of Sister Helen Prejean, about her experience of being first pen-pal then spiritual advisor to a convicted murderer on Louisiana State Penitentiary’s death row. The murderer Joseph De Rocher refused to take responsibility for his crime.  Through meetings with him, the heartbroken parents of the murder victims, and De Rocher’s own family, Sister Helen, who went on to become one of America’s leading advocates for the abolition of the death penalty, makes an extraordinary journey through pain, conflict and grief to help Joseph find his way to the truth, and to the redemptive power of love. Joyce DiDonato stars as Sister Helen in this concert-hall staging, directed by Leonard Foglia.

Nils Frahm – All Melody
Wed 21, Fri 23 & *Sat 24 Feb 2018, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm, *8pm

Globally celebrated, Berlin-based composer, producer and performer Nils Frahm returns to the live stage in 2018, with three dates at the Barbican With Frahm currently recording a new album, All Melody, and looking towards a busy period ahead, audiences can expect to hear new material at these live performances, alongside compositions from an extensive and acclaimed back catalogue.

Frahm’s unconventional approach to an age-old instrument, played contemplatively and intimately, and on a mesmerising scale through his vast stage shows, has won him many fans around the world. Nils has gained global notoriety for his highly developed sense of control and restraint in his work, as well as a breath-taking level of emotion and personality.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
Barbican International Associate Ensemble residency in 2018
Tue 27 Feb – Thu 1 Mar 2018

World-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO), led by managing and artistic director Wynton Marsalis, return to the Barbican The residency provides an opportunity to experience fifteen of America’s finest soloists, ensemble players, and arrangers in jazz music today in concerts, workshops and masterclasses.  JLCO often honour the iconic artists, albums, movements and events that left distinctive marks on the jazz scene, and the residency in 2018 celebrates two game changers of modern music:  ‘King of Swing’ American clarinettist and bandleader Benny Goodman, and master educator, composer and musical thinker Leonard Bernstein.

The residency opens on Tuesday 27 February 2018, with a concert recreating Benny Goodman’s legendary debut at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall on 16 January 1938 – the first interracial concert in the hall, and a watershed moment in American music history. This concert forms part of the Barbican’s 2018 Season, The Art of Change.  On Wednesday 28 February, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra pay tribute to Leonard Bernstein. Composer and arranger Richard DeRosa, nominated for a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition in 2016, will work with JLCO lead trombonist Vincent Gardner to craft unique arrangements of Bernstein’s music for the Orchestra, including classics like West Side Story and Candide, as well as unexpected gems from Bernstein’s vast repertoire. A testament to JLCO and Marsalis’ ever-expanding mission of teaching young people democracy and freedom of expression through jazz and improvisation, Thursday 1 March 2018 sees young musicians from the Guildhall Jazz Orchestra, special guests NYOS Jazz Orchestra and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Jazz Orchestra come together at Milton Court Concert Hall for Miles Ahead – a showcase of what could be the future of Jazz.

Other February highlights include singer and guitarist of Grammy Award winning American alt rock act Wilco Jeff Tweedy giving a solo acoustic performance of tracks drawn from the Wilco back catalogue, plus material from his side projects Loose Fur and Golden Smog (Sat 3 Feb 2018); musical duo Mischa Maisky and Martha Argerich are joined by violinist Janine Jansen to perform Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky (Tue 6 Feb 2018). The second Artist-in-Residence at Milton Court series continues with acclaimed American pianist Jeremy Denk, who will be joined by Barbican Associate Ensemble Britten Sinfonia to perform the original jazz band version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Winds (Tue 27 Feb 2018), and POLIÇA and s t a r g a z e will take to the stage in a Barbican-produced concert at Oval Space featuring music from their forthcoming album, Music For The Long Emergency – released via Transgressive on 16 February 2018 (Tue 27 Feb 2018).

London Symphony Orchestra

Semyon Bychkov, who has conducted the LSO in critically-acclaimed performances of Mahler’s Symphonies Nos.1, 3 and 5 in recent seasons, returns to the LSO podium (4 Feb) to conduct the LSO, with soprano Christiane Karg, alto Anna Larsson and the London Symphony Chorus in Mahler’s vast Resurrection Symphony. 

Sir Mark Elder conducts the LSO in two concerts featuring Elgar’s two completed Symphonies (8 Feb and 11 Feb), bringing together a conductor recognised as one of the world’s foremost interpreters of Elgar’s music with an Orchestra that counts Elgar among its Principal Conductors. The concerts also feature Bartók’s Piano Concerto No.3 with soloist Francesco Piemontesi and Nikolaj Znaider performing Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1. The 8 February programme opens with a rare performance of Janáček’s two last orchestral works, incidental music he had been commissioned to write for a play by the Prussian, Nobel-prize-winning dramatist Gerhardt Hauptmann, Schluck und Jau.

A BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert series exploring the influence of Claude Debussy on the music of Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti (9 Feb) at LSO St Luke’s. The four-concert series, all recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3, is the inspiration of the French pianist Cédric Thiberghien, and forms part of the LSO’s exploration of the music of Claude Debussy, marking the centenary of his death.



London International Mime Festival 2018
Toneelhuis/FC Bergman – 300 el x 50 el x 30 el
Wed 31 Jan–Sat 3 Feb 2018, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Wed 31 Jan 2018, 7.45pm

Theatre and film are ingeniously interwoven in a wordless production that follows the inhabitants of a small village community gripped by the fear of an impending flood.

Six humble dwellings sit in a wild forest clearing. At first, only their exteriors are visible. But when joined by a live camera crew, surreal, peculiar and humorous slices of life are captured and revealed on a big screen. From the mundane to intimate, sinister to absurd, a symphony of symbolic and unsettling images emerges.

Young Belgian theatre collective FC Bergman is creatively experimental and daring, devising visual and poetic work with an anarchic edge. The story of Noah’s Ark – the show's title alludes to the vessel’s dimensions – is the starting point for this production, which touches upon hidden desires, the search for life’s meaning, the beauty of human failure and, finally, hope. With a cast of thirteen actors, 300 el x 50 el x 30 el unfolds to a soundtrack that includes Vivaldi, The Persuasions and Nina Simone.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui/Bunkamura Theatre Cocoon – Pluto
Thu 8–Sun11 Feb 2018, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Thu 8 Feb 2018, 7.15pm

Pioneering Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui directs a genre-defying show honouring the Japanese art form of manga. Sensational visual effects, impactful storytelling and performances of physical grace illuminate this iconic Astro Boy tale.

Depicting a universe where people and robots both coexist and find themselves in conflict, Pluto looks at what it means to be human. Starring skilled Japanese actors known for their versatility, including Mirai Moriyama, alongside dancers and elaborate puppet creations, the staging is characterised by an energy and scale faithful to the original comic book.

Created in the 1950s by the father of manga, Osamu Tezuka, the Astro Boy series starred Atom, a humanoid robot. He and other characters from The Greatest Robot on Earth storyline feature in Pluto – originally serialised in 2003 by Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki and now the basis for this first full-length theatre production.

Pluto is performed in Japanese with English surtitles.

Malthouse Theatre and Black Swan State Theatre Company – Picnic at Hanging Rock
Wed 21 – Sat 24 Feb 2018, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Thu 22 Feb 2018, 7.45pm

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a retelling of Joan Lindsay’s cult 1967 novel, which has haunted the Australian psyche for decades. A cast of female narrators reconstruct the fateful summer’s day in 1900, when, during a trip to a volcanic beauty spot in rural Victoria, three schoolgirls and their teacher inexplicably vanish, never to be seen again. Amid looming hysteria and overtaken by primal forces, their story twists and distorts as they venture from civilisation and order to somewhere hostile, vast and unknown.

Gripping performances rip through time and are matched by an eerie soundscape and lighting design that summon the mysteries of the outback. Directed by Matthew Lutton, Picnic at Hanging Rock is a sublimely unsettling vision of psychological breakdown as the illusion of genteel society is torn apart in an ancient land.

Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia – Smile Upon Us, Lord
based on novels by Grigory Kanovich
Wed 28 Feb–Sat 3 Mar 2018, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Wed 28 Feb 2018, 7pm

Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia returns to the Barbican with a new production, Smile Upon Us, Lord, adapted from two novels by Lithuanian-born writer, Grigory Kanovich, and directed by Rimas Tuminas.

Written in the late 80s post-Soviet era and inspired by the real-life stories Kanovich collected while researching the history of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, Smile Upon Us, Lord is a tale of three unremarkable men in the later stages of their lives who embark on an epic journey from their shtetl to the city of Vilnius. At times fantastical and dreamlike, at others expressive and skilfully comic, this image-rich drama illuminates the Jewish experience in the first half of the 20th century.

Underscored with a rich musicality and theatrically inventive settings that transform the everyday to the universal, Smile Upon Us, Lord explores the search for belonging, the need for family and identity and celebrates the indefatigability of the human spirit with its capacity for love, compassion and friendship.

Smile Upon Us, Lord is performed in Russian with English surtitles.



My Twisted Valentine: La Prisonnière (18*) + Introduction by Virginie Sélavy
Tue 13 Feb 2018 8.45pm, Cinema 2
France/Italy 1968 Dir Henri-Georges Clouzot, 103 min

Presented by Cigarette Burns Cinema, this year’s “alternative” Valentine’s offering is La Prisonnière, the last film by director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s (Les Diaboliques, Wages of Fear). Set in the Paris art world in the Swinging Sixties, this erotic thriller explores the topics of voyeurism and domination in a kinky love triangle. Film critic Virginie Sélavy, the founder and editor-at-large of online cinema magazine Electric Sheep, introduces the screening. 

Science on Screen: Her (15) + Presentation by Sander Bais
Tue 20 Feb 6.10pm, Cinema 2
US 2014 Dir Spike Jonze, 126 min

Theoretical physicist Sander Bais (University of Amsterdam, Santa Fe Institute) deals with the philosophical questions raised by Spike Jonze surreal story of a man (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his intuitive new operating system (Scarlett Johansson) as he becomes increasingly disconnected from the physical world.