Barbican January 2018 highlights

  • In the Barbican Theatre, 2018 starts with the London International Mime Festival. Award-winning Belgian company Peeping Tom bring the UK premiere of Mother (Moeder) which explores the archetypal matriarchal figure; Toneelhuis/FC Bergman make their Barbican debut with the UK premiere of 300 el x 50 el x 30 el which follows the inhabitants of a small village community gripped by the fear of an impending flood; Bêtes de foire - Petit Théâtre de Gestes brings its intimate circus tinged with nostalgia; Lift Off (Je brasse de l’air) is performed by Magali Rousseau , revealing exquisite metal creatures during this promenade performance and Barbican Cinema will screen a key work of German silent cinema, Variety.
  • In the Barbican Hall, Sir Simon Rattle conducts the London Symphony Orchestra in Genesis Suite and Orchestra of La Scala Milan and pianist Behzod Abduraimov both make their debuts.
  • Les Talens Lyriques present a half day exploration of the music of François Couperin in his 350th anniversary year at Milton Court Concert Hall.
  • Carleen Anderson presents Cage Street Memorial - a ‘tribal opera’, chronicling over a century of her own family heritage.
  • Creative collective Video Jam curates a night of audio/visual performances inspired by the life and works of American artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat to mark the finale of Basquiat: Boom for Real, the first large-scale exhibition in the UK of his work in the Barbican Art Gallery until 28 Jan, which 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. In the last in the series of films which have influenced John Akomfrah’s work, Barbican Cinema will screen a digital restoration of The Night of Counting the Years (aka The Mummy).


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:

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. On 4 January, Barbican Cinema will screen a digital restoration by Martin Scorcese’s Film Foundation The Night of Counting the Years (aka The Mummy).

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.

Architecture on Stage: Adam Caruso and Peter St John
Wed 10 Jan, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm

Inspired by Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats, Adam Caruso and Peter St John will give a series of short talks on subjects ranging from new projects, the role of client and contractors, teaching, and problems of representation in architecture.

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



London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Simon Rattle: Genesis Suite
Sat 13 Jan 2018, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the London Symphony Orchestra in Genesis Suite, a musical interpretation of the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis. Consisting of seven movements, each written by a different composer, the work was conceived in 1943 by film composer/conductor Nathaniel Shilkret. Shilkret wished to create an impactful musical gesture – one which alluded to the horrors of the Second World War by means of Biblical analogies, while also breaking boundaries between musical idioms.

Shilkret approached some of the most famous composers of his time for this composite project, including Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Milhaud, Toch, Castelnuovo, Tedesco and Tansman. Despite writing music in very different styles, these composers were all united in their experience of being European émigrés in America, displaced from their homelands by war and totalitarian regimes. Shilkret also asked Béla Bartók to take part but unfortunately Bartók was already gravely ill at that point and not able to participate. To acknowledge his planned involvement, the Barbican performance culminates with Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. The production is devised and presented by creative director Gerard McBurney, with visuals by award winning projection designer Mike Tutaj.

Genesis Suite forms part of the Barbican’s 2018 Season, The Art of Change, which explores how artists respond to, reflect and can potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.

Les Talens Lyriques/François Couperin: lumière et ombre
Sun 14 Jan 2018, Milton Court Concert Hall, 2pm

Famed early music ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, under Christophe Rousset, will take up residence for half a day in Milton Court Concert Hall, for an exploration of the work of Baroque composer François Couperin, in the 350th anniversary year of his birth. The French ensemble, noted particularly for their performances of rare works which they consider to be missing links in Europe’s musical heritage, will perform two concerts, Lumière and Ombre, culminating with Trois leçons de ténèbres, performed by candlelight. Rousset will also take part in a panel discussion, delving into the imagination of the much-loved composer.

Behzod Abduraimov plays the Liszt Sonata
Thu 18 Jan 2018, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm

Pianist Behzod Abduraimov makes his debut at the Barbican Hall in a concert of imposing romantic works that demonstrate his astonishing virtuosity. He has established himself as one of the forerunners of his generation, winning numerous awards for his recordings, and performing with leading orchestras worldwide. On the Barbican stage he will perform Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, a pinnacle of the composer’s oeuvre, alongside two transcriptions: Liszt’s transcription of Wagner’s Isolde’s Liebestod, and Prokofiev’s Ten Pieces from Romeo and Juliet, Op 75.

Carleen Anderson – Cage Street Memorial
+ special guests TBA
Sat 20 Jan 2018, Barbican Hall, 7:30pm

Mercury-nominated and Worldwide FM Lifetime Achievement Award winner Carleen Anderson takes to the Barbican stage to present Cage Street Memorial. Described by Anderson as a ‘tribal opera’, poetry and songs chronicle over a century of Anderson’s own family heritage, reflecting on multi-culturalism and the celebration of perseverance against the odds.

Original songs composed and arranged by Anderson drawn from jazz and soul, gospel and chamber music are enhanced by a backdrop of evocative visual images with Carleen on voice, piano and digital harmonizer complemented by an expert quartet led by the critically acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson. This performance is one-third part of a trilogy series also consisting of a theatrical production currently in development and a British Library registered book Cage Street Memorial - The Chapel of Mirrors.

Carleen Anderson’s Cage Street Memorial project is supported by Arts Council England and PRS for Music Foundation.

Orchestra of La Scala Milan / Riccardo Chailly
Wed 24 Jan 2018, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm

The prestigious Orchestra of La Scala Milan makes its first visit to the Barbican Hall, led by Principal Conductor Riccardo Chailly. The orchestra, founded in 1982 with the objective of developing a symphonic repertoire to add a further dimension to La Scala’s great operatic tradition, will perform a sparkling programme bringing together both of these musical worlds, with Rossini’s Overture from La Gazza Ladra, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 and Grieg’s Piano Concerto. The soloist for this evening’s concert is Benjamin Grosvenor, whose previous appearances at the Barbican have been received to great acclaim.

Video Jam x Basquiat
Sun 28 Jan 2018, Barbican Hall, 8pm

Creative collective Video Jam curates a night of audio/visual performances inspired by the life and works of American artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat to mark the finale of Basquiat: Boom for Real, the first large-scale exhibition in the UK of his work.

Video Jam has programmed a selection of both established and emerging musicians, and filmmakers, from the UK and New York. Musicians will compose original scores to the specially commissioned moving image works which will be performed live. Confirmed for this collaboration are Mercury Prize winners, Young Fathers, Ibibio Sound Machine and Seaming To.

Meanwhile, participating filmmakers include Topher Campbell, Victoria Keddie and Haley Elizabeth Anderson. Further musicians to perform include Tombed Visions, RootsRaddix and Danalogue (Live) featuring Sarathy Korwar, Leafcutter John and Idris Rahman. Further commissioned film makers include Gabrielle Ledet & Jack Wedge, Scout Stuart and Ephraim Asili. Following Video Jam’s recent artist residency in New York, filmmakers have been carefully selected by the Video Jam curators, taking into consideration the exhibition’s focus, including Basquiat’s relationship to music, literature, film and television, placing him within the wider context of the time. Their work covers a diverse range of genres - hand drawn animation, essay film, narrative, video art and more. The musicians chosen reflect Basquiat’s diverse musical tastes - contemporary classical, bebop, jazz, hip hop, electronic and experimental noise.

Additional highlights

As part of the ECHO Rising Stars concert series, Percussionist Christopher Sietzen will perform a new ECHO commission by American musician (and former drummer of The Police) Stewart Copeland, alongside one of Sietzen’s own works, and music by Xennakis, Pärt and others (Fri 5 Jan 2018, LSO St Luke’s). Another ECHO Rising Star Ellen Nisbeth, comes to LSO St Luke’s on 19 January to perform works by Vaughan Williams, Saariaho, Rebecca Clarke and a new work titled Tales of Lost Times written especially for her by Stockholm-based composer Katrina Leyman (Fri 19 Jan 2018, LSO St Luke’s). At Milton Court celebrated baritone Christopher Purves performs a recital of works by Handel, accompanied by the ensemble Arcangelo (Sun 7 Jan 2018, Milton Court Concert Hall). EUROPALIA and the Barbican continue their series, presenting an exploration of gamelan music in a special project Planet Harmonik by Aloysius Suwardi, based around the Pythagorean concept of the music of the spheres (Thu 18 Jan 2018, Milton Court). Renowned Irish fiddler Martin Hayes (The Gloaming) and the eclectic quartet Brooklyn Rider will join forces for an evening of music grounded in the Irish tradition, drawing material from their upcoming collaborative album (Thu 25 Jan 2018, Milton Court). The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will celebrate the life and influence of founder member Kitty Lux, who sadly passed away in 2017, with a special concert at the Barbican (Fri 26 Jan 2018, Barbican Hall). At LSO St Luke’s, two Bernstein enthusiasts, journalist Edward Seckerson and Tony Award-nominated arranger, composer and musical director Jason Carr, will be joined by Olivier Award nominee Sophie-Louise Dann to explore the life and music of Leonard Bernstein in a cabaret performance Bernstein Revealed (Sun 28 Jan 2018, LSO St Luke’s). This event forms part of the Barbican’s season-long celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centenary, Bernstein 100.

The intimate setting of Milton Court will play host to a concert of principally Estonian choral works with the celebrated Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, in the year that marks 100 years since the proclamation of Estonia as an independent, democratic republic (Tue 30 Jan 2018, Milton Court Concert Hall).

BBC Symphony Orchestra highlights

A Total Immersion day will focus on the music of Leonard Bernstein in his centenary year (27 Jan) - dedicated as much to his concert and choral works as his jazz and cabaret talents, Bernstein the Renaissance Man is celebrated in film, conversation and performances, including popular choral works, as well as a rare chance to hear his Songfest.

London Symphony Orchestra highlights

The LSO launches the new year with a collaboration between Sir Simon Rattle and international opera star Magdalena Kožená (11 Jan), followed by a performance of Genesis Suite, as detailed above (13 Jan). François-Xavier Roth, the LSO’s Principal Guest Conductor, takes charge of a major celebration of the century of Claude Debussy’s death in 2018. The series will survey Debussy’s career, those who influenced him and his successors across three concerts, beginning with two in January, featuring cellist Edward Moreau (21 Jan) and pianist Cédric Tiberghien (25 Jan).



London International Mime Festival 2018
Petit Théâtre de Gestes – Bêtes de foire
Tue 16–Sat 20 Jan 2018, The Pit
Press night: Tue16 Jan 2018, 7.45pm

Bêtes de foire is an intimate circus, tinged with nostalgia, where artistry, puppetry and object theatre combine. Surrounded by old clothes, mannequins and bric-a-brac, a seamstress tinkers with assorted fabrics in her workshop, reassembling materials of all kinds while her antiquated sewing machine provides musical cues for her fellow performer’s routines. He, a little down-at-heel but clearly talented, launches into an eccentric dance, juggling precariously with hats and disappearing props. A supporting cast of mechanical characters, including tightrope walker, acrobats and one-man band, adds to the mystique of an itinerant fairground show.

Elsa De Witte and Laurent Cabrol performed with French street theatre and travelling companies before founding their own miniature circus universe. With echoes of Tadeusz Kantor and Alexander Calder, and the sensibility of silent film, this is a feelgood performance of surprise, wonder, offbeat humour and exceptional skill.

London International Mime Festival 2018
L’Insolite Mécanique – Lift Off (Je brasse de l’air)
Tue 23– Sat 27 Jan 2018, The Pit
Press performances: Tue 23 Jan 2018, 6.30pm and 8.30pm

In this mysterious world of shadow and light, mechanical installations come alive, illuminating Magali Rousseau’s childhood dream of achieving flight.

An enigmatic yet charismatic artist tells her story of a little girl wishing to escape by becoming a master of the air. As she leads the audience to different parts of the atmospherically lit stage, her simple words become a symbolic force for this promenade performance in which exquisite metal creatures emerge. Some small, some very large, each is an actor, a work of art in its own right, set into action through steam power, flame, time or weight, all playing their part in this ingenious theatrical tale.

Rousseau’s astonishingly engineered machines are born out of a career working in set and prop design. Collaborating with musician Stéphane Diskus, whose live clarinet playing heightens the unusual ambience, she relates a most personal memory: how trying to fly became an act of resistance. A journey into the imagination, then, for all the dreamers, young and old alike.

London International Mime Festival 2018
Peeping Tom – Mother (Moeder)
Wed 24 – Sat 27 January 2018, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Wed 24 Jan 2018, 7.45pm

Peeping Tom evoke a dreamlike universe, at once disturbing and oddly humorous, to explore the archetypal figure of the mother, in a production of astonishing physicality that defies characterisation.

Taking audiences into a series of recognisable spaces, including a museum, music studio and maternity ward, this non-narrative work draws on the memories of the show’s director Gabriela Carrizo and those of her performers to trigger disquieting reflections about motherhood.

Suffering, desire, fear, life and death are unexpectedly intertwined in Mother (Moeder), which shies away from neither the subconscious nor nightmares, reflecting the unstable atmosphere of a David Lynch film. The soundscape has a cinematic quality, sometimes amplified to disconcerting effect. It is matched by surreal visual imagery and imaginative choreography where bodies bend, flip, isolate and contort.

Peeping Tom’s 32 rue Vandenbranden, seen at the Barbican in 2015 as part of the London International Mime Festival, won the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production.

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.


John Akomfrah Presents: The Night of Counting the Years (aka The Mummy) (15*)
Thu 4 Jan 6.15pm, Cinema 2
Egypt 1969 Dir Chadi Abdel Salam 102 min Digital presentation

Presented here in a digital restoration by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, this Egyptian classic was recently voted the greatest ever movie from the Arab world. 1881, Thebes – burial place of the Pharaohs. The Horabat mountain tribe have lived for generations by stripping artefacts from a tomb known only to themselves, and selling them on the black market. When the current chief dies, his two sons learn for the first time about the trade, and are thrown into moral chaos: reveal the secret to the authorities, or preserve what the tribesmen consider to be their natural heritage?

The film casts this story in terms of the search for an authentic, lost Egyptian national identity, while leaving open questions about desecration, veneration, and what exactly our debt should be to the past. Unusual camera angles, striking colours and an unsettling score contribute to making this what Scorsese has called ‘an entrancing and oddly moving experience.’

Silent Film and Live Music: Variety (PG)
with live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne and Martin Pyne
Sun 21 Jan 4pm, Cinema 1
Germany 1925 Dir Ewald Andre Dupont 94 min

A key work of German silent cinema and an international smash on its release, E A Dupont’s movie is an audacious melodrama, filmed in the legendary Berlin Wintergarten Theatre. Starring two of the era’s biggest stars, Emil Jannings and Lya De Putti, the film immerses us in a world of acrobats, clowns, jugglers, dancing girls and barkers of the period.

The screening features a live musical accompaniment by acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Stephen Horne and vibraphonist/percussionist Martin Pyne, who perform Horne's original score for this classic of both the silent and circus genre.

Part of the London International Mime Festival