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Barbican November highlights

A full colour photograph of Gustavo Dudamel conducting
  • Barbican International Orchestral Partner, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, returns to the Barbican to celebrate its centenary this year.
  • Marking the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, Barbican Cinema’s film programme Borders and Boundaries is a cinematic gaze on borders the world over, screening throughout November.
  • Winners of this year’s Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award, SUPERFAN’s Nosedive is an intergenerational circus show that looks at how cooperation, trust and security shift as people age.
  • Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art, a new Barbican Art Gallery exhibition, explores the social and artistic role of cabarets, cafés and clubs around the world, spanning the 1880s to the 1960s.


Borders and Boundaries
Fri 8–Wed 27 Nov 2019, Cinemas 1 & 3

Marking the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, the Barbican Cinema’s film programme Borders and Boundaries is a cinematic gaze on borders the world over. Screening throughout November, this is an opportunity to contemplate borders and boundaries, then and now, physical, man-made ones and the way they have been represented and challenged in film.

The season opens with a ScreenTalk event featuring the deeply moving Midnight Traveler (US/UK/Qatar/Canada 2019), which won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award at Sundance Film Festival. After receiving a Taliban death sentence, Afghan filmmaker Hassan Fazili is forced to flee his homeland (with his family) in the hope of reaching the sanctuary of the European Union.

Other highlights include Wall (France/Israel 2004) in which acclaimed filmmaker Simone Bitton examines the controversial ‘separation wall’ that divides Israel from the West Bank, which began construction in 2002 on a disputed line.

The plight of Latin American refugees is highlighted in the Oscar nominated El Norte (USA 1984, Dir Gregory Nava); and El Mar La Mar (USA 2017 Dir Joshua Bonnetta and J P Sniadecki), that tells the oral histories of refugees and migrants who make the desperate decision to cross the Sonoran Desert in the hope of making a new life in the US.

Doc’n Roll Film Festival
Fri 1–Sun 17 Nov 2019, Cinemas 1 & 2

Passionate about independent film and music across all genres, Doc'n Roll provides the opportunity to watch great music documentaries – on the big screen and at full volume.

Opening on 1 November with the London premiere of the acclaimed doc A Dog Called Money (Ireland/ UK 2019) – plus a Q&A with the director Seamus Murphy – this is an intimate journey through the writing and recording of a PJ Harvey record.

Other highlights include Where Does a Body End, (Canada 2019), a captivating film portrait of the experimental rock band Swans, and a ScreenTalk with its director, Marco Porsia,; and the world premiere of Digging for Weldon Irvine (US 2019), about the life and legacy of polymath Weldon Irvine; the prolific musician-composer and playwright who penned the civil rights anthem, Young, Gifted and Black.

Hidden Figures: Ha Gil-jong
Mon 4–Sun 10 Nov 2019, Cinema 2

The provocative, brutal and captivating films of Ha Gil-jong – a major figure of 1970s Korean cinema, who died tragically young at 37 – are rediscovered in November’s Hidden Figures programme.

The season opens with his ground-breaking debut The Pollen of Flowers (South Korea 1972), which blends satire with melodrama, as a businessman brings a male lover into his personal life, with cataclysmic results.

Male relationships are also explored in The March of Fools (South Korea 1975) – a college comedy under dictatorship – as two students seek love and happiness in Ha’s best-known film, a box office smash in 1975.

The season concludes with The Ascension of Han-ne (South Korea 1975), which mixes period drama and horror to investigate the negative impact of outdated Korean traditions.

Ha Gil-jong is co-curated and co-presented by the Barbican and the London Korean Film Festival and supported by the Korean Film Archive.


Insula orchestra: Weber’s Der Freischütz
Mon 4 Nov 2019, Barbican Hall, 7pm

Insula orchestra, Laurence Equilbey conductor, Stanislas de Barbeyrac Max, Johanni van Oostrum Agathe, Chiara Skerath Annchen, Vladimir Baykov Kaspar, Christian Immler Eremit, Thorsten Grümbel Kuno, Samuel Hasselhorn Ottokar, Anas Seguin Kilian, Choeur Accentus.

Conductor Laurence Equilbey brings her Insula orchestra back to the Barbican to present a concert performance of Carl Maria von Weber’s operatic fairy tale Der Freischütz, centring around the German folkloric legend of a hunter entering into a contract with the devil.

Insula orchestra performs on period instruments, bringing historical authenticity to Weber’s opera that defined German Romanticism and is widely considered one of the first German masterpieces in the world of opera.

Nik Bärtsch & Sophie Clements: When The Clouds Clear
A Light and Sound Poem

Part of EFG London Jazz Festival 2019
Fri 15 Nov 2019, Barbican Hall, 8.30pm

Pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch’s and visual artist Sophie Clements’ new collaborative audio-visual performance When The Clouds Clear is a meditation on elemental forces and cycles.

Inspired by a Zen poem entitled The Moon in the Water, the performance uses elements of water, light, reflections and music, all combined into one dramatic art and sound installation. The piano seemingly floats atop a water tank, while a film of water in its various states, intercut with sharp graphical light effects, is projected on a screen behind.

ECM artist, Bärtsch is a Zurich-based musician, producer and label, club and festival co-founder, known internationally for his Ritual Groove Music, which is influenced by funk, new classical music, Jazz and Japanese aesthetics.

Clements is a London-based artist, combining filmmaking, sculpture and sound to create work ranging from solo gallery projects to large-scale collaborative pieces with composers/musicians.

Commissioned by Enjoy Jazz Festival and co-commissioned by the Barbican.

Produced by the Barbican.

Alva Noto & Anne-James Chaton: ALPHABET
Sun 17 Nov 2019, LSO St. Luke’s, 8pm

ALPHABET is the new audio-visual, live poetry and music project from regular collaborators French sound poet Anne-James Chaton and German artist and experimental musician Carsten Nicolai aka Alva Noto. The project – which will also be released as a record – is inspired by Saint Isidore of Seville, whose wide-ranging work Etymologies attempted to collect all that remained of classical learning in the 7th Century AD. Isidore’s explanations of words and their derivations in fact owed as much to imagination and coincidence as they did to scholarship; ALPHABET will be a similarly playful fusion of objective poetry and minimal music, inviting audiences to savour multiple connections between Chaton’s language and Alva Noto’s digital environments.

Produced by the Barbican.

Herbie Hancock 
Sun 17 Nov 2019, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm
Part of EFG London Jazz Festival 2019

American jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and his trademark keytar and band return to the Barbican following their 2017 performance, with a selection of his classic music from his extensive back catalogue.

Throughout the musical icon’s explorations, Hancock has transcended limitations and genres while maintaining his unmistakable voice. With an illustrious career spanning over five decades and 14 Grammy™ Awards, including Album of the Year for River: The Joni Letters – an honour which only a handful of jazz musicians ever received – he continues to amaze audiences across the globe.

Produced by the Barbican by arrangement with Marshall Arts and Serious.

Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel
Barbican International Orchestral Partner – Residency
Mon 18–Wed 20 Nov 2019

Barbican International Orchestral Partner, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, celebrates its centenary this year.

During their Barbican residency, Dudamel and his orchestra present a cross-section of the Philharmonic’s illustrious history and its commitment to new commissions. The programme includes the London premieres of two works that were special LA Phil centennial commissions: Andrew Norman’s Sustain, and a new piano concerto by the LA Phil’s Creative Chair John Adams, featuring dazzling soloist Yuja Wang.

The residency programme also includes Bruckner’s Symphony No 4, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, music by Ginastera, new commissions from contemporary Latin American composers Paul Desenne and Gabriela Ortiz, and a collaboration with the legendary jazz pianist, and the Philharmonic’s Creative Chair for Jazz, Herbie Hancock. For this orchestra, a centennial is more than a celebration of the past. It is an opportunity to define the future. At the heart of this residency is Tuning into Change Orchestra, a creative learning activity that brings together young musicians from Los Angeles and the UK, in a partnership between Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (NYO) for an open rehearsal led by Dudamel.

The Art Ensemble of Chicago 
Part of EFG London Jazz Festival 2019
Sat 23 Nov 2019, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm

The Art Ensemble of Chicago has been at the forefront of creative improvised and African diasporic music – what they have long-termed “Great Black Music” – since 1969. This year the ensemble celebrates its 50th Anniversary with a tribute to its founder members Lester Bowie, Joseph Jarman and Malachi Favors Maghostut. The evening will also feature some special guest soloists including Junius Paul and Baba Sissko

The ensemble that evolved from founder Roscoe Mitchell's musical vision, explorations and adventurous collaborations in Chicago, is renowned for its integration of musical styles that span the history of jazz and multi-instrumental group improvisations.

Their live performances of original compositions are visual, auditory and sensual spectacles with elaborate costumes, face paint, props, theatre, poetry, dance and more. The current eighteen-member group appears as a new constellation in the creative scene, having recently released two-disc masterpiece We are on the Edge, after a studio recording hiatus of fifteen years.

Produced by the Barbican in association with EFG London Jazz Festival.

Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook
Wed 27 Nov 2019, Barbican Hall, 8pm

A sell-out hit at 2018’s Edinburgh International Festival and Celtic Connections in 2019, singer-songwriter and BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of The Year 2018 Karine Polwart brings Scottish Songbook to the Barbican.

Polwart will be joined on stage by long-term collaborators Steven Polwart (guitars) and Inge Thomson (accordion & percussion) alongside an extended band line-up also featuring Graeme Smillie (bass and keys), Calum McIntyre (kit and percussion) and Louis Abbott of Admiral Fallow (vocals, guitar & percussion). 

Reimagining songs from across fifty years of Scottish pop, the evening includes eighties classics from Deacon Blue, The Waterboys and Big Country, stadium balladry of Biffy Clyro, and maverick Ivor Cutler’s songs will be rubbing shoulders with the electro-pop of Chvrches and the song craft of John Martyn.

Produced by the Barbican.

Sir András Schiff plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Sat 30 Nov 2019, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Fischer/Schiff
Part of Beethoven 2020 at the Barbican

In anticipation of the big Beethoven celebrations in 2020, the Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer arrive at the Barbican already in November to start their Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle.

One of the greatest orchestras of our time is joined by the acclaimed pianist and Beethoven authority Sir András Schiff. The concerts pair music by Dvořák with a complete Beethoven piano concerto cycle, featuring two performances in November 2019 and two in May 2020.

LSO highlights

LSO Conductor Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas returns this autumn with a variety of performances in celebration of his 50th Anniversary of first appearing with the Orchestra. Sunday 10 November will see him conduct Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet with the London Symphony Chorus, mezzo-soprano Alice Coote, tenor Nicholas Phan, and bass Nicolas Courjal, combining the musical drama of a symphony with the theatricality of solo voices and chorus. The vibrant and emotionally charged Fifth Symphony by Prokofiev will be the focus of the Half Six Fix – the hour-long early-evening, less formal concert format which includes an introduction on stage from the conductor – on Wednesday 13 November, and completing the triptych of concerts on Thursday 14 November, Tilson Thomas will conduct his own piece Agnegram, and will be joined by leading violinist Nicola Benedetti for Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, with Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony to conclude.

LSO Principal Guest Conductor Gianandrea Noseda continues his exploration of Russian Roots in two concerts this month. Conducting Rimsky-Korsakov’s mythical ­The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh Suite and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5, he will be joined by pianist Denis Matsuev for the fiercely demanding Third Piano Concerto by Prokofiev on Sunday 3 November, and with violinist Janine Jansen for Bruch’s Violin Concerto on Thursday 28 November.


SUPERFAN – Nosedive
The Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award 2019
Thu 7–Sat 16 Nov 2019, The Pit
Press night: Fri 8 Nov, 7.45pm

Directed by Ellie Dubois and Pete Lannon of Scotland-based SUPERFAN, Nosedive uses contemporary theatre and circus to look at how cooperation, trust and security shift at varying stages of life, especially as people get older.

A child climbs onto an adult’s shoulders and they look out, seeing hope but also destruction. One generation after another reaches higher, looks further, hurtling toward a future they can’t control. Pushing themselves to the limit, dancing with abandon, colliding with one another, children and adults perform feats and leaps that grow ever bolder and more impressive, revealing an intricate and resilient bond. As their roles are subtly reordered, this intergenerational show becomes an unlikely metaphor for considering age, pitting the instinct to protect the young against the wild abandon and joy of childhood.

Royal Shakespeare Company – As You Like It
Sat 26 Oct 2019–Sat 18 Jan 2020, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Tue 29 Oct, 7pm

All the world really is a stage in Kimberley Sykes’ playful and imaginative take on Shakespeare’s romantic comedy.

Rosalind is banished, and with her best friend Celia by her side, she journeys to a world of exile. But not before catching the eye of love-struck Orlando, who is also forced from the Court into the Forest.

Blending physical comedy, music and storytelling, this As You Like It dares you to change your state of mind.

Royal Shakespeare Company – The Taming of the Shrew
Tue 5 Nov 2019–Sat 18 Jan 2020, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Thu 7 Nov, 7pm

The ultimate battle of the sexes is turned on its head in Justin Audibert’s The Taming of the Shrew as the 1590s are reimagined – with women in charge.

In this radical take on Shakespeare's fierce and energetic comedy of gender, Baptista Minola is seeking to marry off her two sons, the sweet-tempered Bianco and the rebellious Katherine. Cue an explosive courtship and a keenly witty portrayal of hierarchy and power.

Royal Shakespeare Company – Measure for Measure
Tue 12 Nov 2019–Thu 16 Jan 2020, Barbican Theatre
Press night: Thu 14 Nov, 7pm

When a young novice nun is compromised by a corrupt official who offers to save her brother from execution in return for sex, she has no idea where to turn for help. When she threatens to expose him, he tells her that no one would believe her.

RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran (The Tempest, 2017; Imperium I: Conspirator and Imperium II: Dictator, 2018) directs this new production of Measure for Measure, which was written in the early 1600s but feels even more urgent today.


Trevor Paglen: From ‘Apple’ to ‘Anomaly’
Thu 26 Sep 2019–Sun 16 Feb 2020, The Curve
Free admission
Part of
Life Rewired

Barbican Art Gallery has commissioned the artist Trevor Paglen to create a new work for The Curve. Paglen takes as his starting point the way in which Artificial Intelligence networks are taught how to ‘see’, ‘hear’ and ‘perceive’ the world by engineers who feed them vast training sets. Standard training sets consist of images, video and sound libraries that depict objects, faces, facial expressions, gestures, actions, speech commands, eye movements and more. Paglen highlights how the advent of autonomous computer vision and AI has developed alongside this new kind of media, not designed for humans, but for machines, which are rife with hidden politics, biases, stereotypes and epistemological assumptions.

Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art
Fri 4 Oct 2019–Sun 19 Jan 2020, Barbican Art Gallery

Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art explores the social and artistic role of cabarets, cafés and clubs around the world. Spanning the 1880s to the 1960s, the exhibition presents a dynamic and multi-faceted history of artistic production. The first major show staged on this theme, Into the Night features both famed and little-known sites of the avant-garde – offering an alternative history of modern art that highlights the spirit of experimentation and collaboration between artists, performers, designers, musicians and writers such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Loïe Fuller, Josef Hoffmann, Giacomo Balla, Theo van Doesburg, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, as well as Josephine Baker, Jeanne Mammen, Aaron Douglas, Ramón Alva de la Canal and Ibrahim El-Salahi.

Heavy handed, we crush the moment
A performance commission by Last Yearz Interesting Negro
Thu 28 Nov–Sun 1 Dec 2019, The Pit

Barbican Art Gallery presents a new commission by Last Yearz Interesting Negro, the performance project of London-based artist and dancer Jamila Johnson-Small

Dance, darkness and bass frequencies – Heavy handed, we crush the moment is an immersive experience, somewhere between a dreamscape, a meditation, a nightmare and a nightclub. Over four evenings, Last Yearz Interesting Negro presents a series of genre-blurring happenings. Focusing on the sensory impact of the live encounter for performers and audience alike, Heavy handed, we crush the moment is an invitation to reflect on boundaries, intimacy, spectacle and the inevitability of movement. Last Yearz Interesting Negro and collaborators create a charged atmosphere through sound, light, set and live performance.

This commission is a contemporary response to the Barbican exhibition Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art.

Architecture on Stage
Raphael Zuber, Tue 5 Nov 2019, Frobisher Auditorium 1, 7pm
Mikhail Riches, Thu 28 Nov 2019, Frobisher Auditorium 1, 7pm

The Architecture Foundation and the Barbican in partnership present Architecture on Stage – a programme of talks by the world's leading architects. In November, Swiss architect Raphael Zuber discusses his recent projects and Annalie Riches and David Mikhail speak about their focus on improving the quality of UK housing.


Life Rewired Hub
Until Dec 2019
Part of
Life Rewired

Motivated by the need to develop and test new models of public engagement, the Barbican presents a temporary venue for public programming on Level G. The Life Rewired Hub explores the key ideas in our 2019 programme, inviting audiences to encounter the voices who are witnessing and revealing some of the elusive forces shaping our lives today.

Architects Dyvik Kahlen have designed the flexible new space, which is a platform for a year-long programme of talks, workshops, research, and residencies. These events stem from the themes in the Life Rewired season, and a significant strand of activity has been co-programmed in partnership with the Royal Society and the British Council.

The Life Rewired Hub also houses an exhibition which presents curated content from the complex, vast, and all-too-often confusing discourse taking place around the impact of technology on our lives. This features specially-commissioned contributions from writers and thinkers including Jaron Lanier and James Bridle.