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Barbican Theatre & Dance announce Autumn/Winter 2023 season

Barbican Theatre

· World premiere of Belarus Free Theatre’s King Stakh’s Wild Hunt, a Barbican co-commission (14-16 Sept)

· UK premiere of Eun-Me Ahn’s Dragons (20-23 Sept)

· UK premiere of Why Not Theatre’s spectacular retelling of the Mahabharata, a Barbican co-commission (1-7 Oct)

· UK premiere of choreographer Pam Tanowitz and Pulitzer prize-winning composer David Lang’s major new collaboration, Song of Songs, a Barbican co-commission (11-14 Oct)

The Pit

· Inua Ellams returns with 05Fest, featuring five days of cross-cultural performance events (26-30 Sept)

· Dance Umbrella returns to co-present the UK premiere of Ioanna Paraskevopoulou’s MOS (11-14 Oct)

· Barbican’s creative development programme Open Lab presents four shows by its alumni artists:

-   Julene Robinson’s The Night Woman (19-21 Oct)

-   London premiere of emma + pj’s Ghosts of the Near Future (26-28 Oct)

-   The PappyShow returns to throw a special Pit Party to celebrate their 10th birthday (1-4 Nov)

-   World premiere of Rhiannon Faith Company’s Lay Down Your Burdens, a Barbican co-commission (21-25 Nov)

·  And Told by an Idiot return with their delightful and interactive show for families, Get Happy (7-19 Dec)


The Barbican today announces its Theatre and Dance line-up beginning on 14 September and running until 19 December 2023. This follows A Strange Loop, the Pulitzer Prize-winning new musical direct from Broadway with performances until 9 September and includes a world premiere from Belarus Free Theatre, UK premieres by Why Not Theatre, Eun-Me Ahn, Pam Tanowitz and David Lang, a cross-cultural festival curated by Inua Ellams, the return of Dance Umbrella and Told by an Idiot, and a line-up of exciting and experimental theatre makers in The Pit. This is alongside the (previously announced) return of Joe Hisaishi and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)’s six-time Olivier Award-winning production My Neighbour Totoro (performances from 21 November 2023 – 23 March 2024), a landmark adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s enchanting classic coming-of-age film in collaboration with Improbable and Nippon TV. Tickets for the autumn / winter season go on sale to Barbican Patrons today, to Barbican Members Plus on Thursday 27 April, Barbican Members on Friday 28 April and on general sale on Monday 1 May 2023 via

Toni Racklin, Head of Theatre and Dance at the Barbican, said:

“We are honoured to reveal our autumn and winter 2023 programme, featuring artists who are making brave and bold new work from across the world and the UK. We reflect on the power of storytelling to help navigate our future, with new perspectives on ancient tales of mythical beasts, the very heart of human desire, or encounters with gods, ghosts or evil souls lurking in their shadows. From fanning literal flames in epic contemporary spectacles, to joyful performance parties in The Pit.

Our Open Lab programme supports fresh ideas from ambitious and underrepresented voices. We celebrate more than ten years of the scheme by welcoming four alumni artists to present their work, including a London and world premiere. We balance exceptional talent from UK-based artists, with sensational work from Belarus, Ukraine, Canada, the South Asian and South East Asian diaspora communities, South Korea, Greece, and the United States. We continue to offer our Young Barbican members tickets for all our productions, as well as benefits for Barbican Members across the season. We hope you can join us for this truly exciting array of theatrical experiences.”

The autumn begins on the Barbican Theatre main stage with a brand new work and Barbican co-commission from one of the world’s bravest theatre companies, Belarus Free Theatre. A thrilling gothic noir based on a celebrated Belarusian novel, King Stakh’s Wild Hunt is inspired by folklore and carries a warning for Europe today about our indifference to brutality. The production unites actors, opera singers and musicians from Ukraine and Belarus, many of them political refugees from war or dictatorship.

Almost 40 years since Peter Brook’s legendary production, the Barbican presents the UK premiere of innovative Canadian company Why Not Theatre’s Mahabharata. A Barbican co-commission, this contemporary adaptation of the four-thousand-year-old Sanskrit epic explores a devastating family feud and how survivors rebuild after mass extinction. The large-scale spectacle is led by an ensemble cast and live band from the South Asian diaspora, using both ancient and modern storytelling techniques.

More UK premieres will be hosted on the main stage, from two titans of international contemporary dance who each explore the dynamic and profound connections made possible by engaging with cultural heritage. South Korean choreographer Eun-Me Ahn’s Dragons brings together the modern and the traditional with Gen-Z performers (and holograms) from across Asia in a joyful riot of dance, music and non-stop movement. From the United States, Barbican co-commission Song of Songs sees choreographer Pam Tanowitz and Pulitzer prize-winning composer David Lang collaborate for the first time to create a meditation on loving and being, bringing the Old Testament text to life in a glorious collage of live music, poetry and movement. 

Building on his successful Pit Party in 2018 and Poetry + Film Hacks at the Barbican in 2020 and 2021, the multi-award-winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams returns to curate and host his latest 05Fest. Five creative and thought-provoking performance events will include old favourites and two world premieres. Inua will commission poets, writers and musicians celebrating the cross-arts nature of the Barbican, and all drawing on the theme of belonging.

In The Pit, Dance Umbrella returns to co-present the UK premiere of Athens-based choreographer Ioanna Paraskevopoulou’s MOS, a captivating and playful duet immersed in the world of foley. Across the season, four alumni artists from the Barbican’s creative development programme Open Lab showcase new work, including: Julene Robinson’s solo show The Night Woman about Black womanhood, darkness and redemptive self-love; the London premiere of emma + pj’s apocalyptic fever-dream Ghosts of the Near Future; The PappyShow returns to throw a special Pit Party to celebrate their 10th birthday; and a world premiere by Rhiannon Faith Company, co-commissioned by the Barbican, Lay Down Your Burdens which explores the need for a radical intervention of humanity, community and compassion in isolated modern Britain.

Will Gompertz, Artistic Director at the Barbican, said:

“This extraordinary Theatre and Dance season sits within the Barbican’s broader programme and its bold mix of incredible homegrown and international artists – from London-born Yahael Camara Onono in residence at Milton Court to the legendary Laurie Anderson, Herbie Hancock and Sergio Mendes in the Hall. We have a brilliantly curated cinema season featuring rarely seen queer 90s cinema, while in our galleries we celebrate the work of interdisciplinary visual artists Carrie Mae Weems and Julianknxx. There really is never a dull day or evening at the Barbican!.”


Please use this link to access images for the autumn season:  

Full programme information

Belarus Free Theatre – King Stakh’s Wild Hunt
Dates: Thursday 14 – Saturday 16 September 2023, Barbican Theatre
Press performance: Friday 15 September 2023, 7.15pm
World premiere, Barbican co-commission

Following last year’s “staggeringly powerful” stage production, Dogs of Europe, Belarus Free Theatre returns to the Barbican Theatre with the world premiere of King Stakh’s Wild Hunt, a thrilling gothic noir based on the celebrated Belarusian novel. A conversation between art forms, King Stakh's Wild Hunt interlaces opera, theatre, multimedia and live music to tell a story rooted in the history of Belarus with blazing relevance to contemporary Europe and our indifference to brutality.

King Stakh's Wild Hunt is one of the most popular novels by the visionary Belarusian writer Uladzimir Karatkievich. Inspired by Eastern European folklore it follows the ghostly hunt to free a young heiress from an evil curse. The production unites actors, opera singers and musicians from Ukraine and Belarus, many of them political refugees from war or dictatorship.

Described by The New York Times as, “one of the bravest and most inspired underground troupes on the planet”, Belarus Free Theatre has originated some of the worlds most provocative and breathtakingly physical theatre and is the only theatre company in Europe banned by its government on political grounds.

King Stakh’s Wild Hunt is performed in Belarusian with English surtitles.


Eun-Me Ahn – Dragons

Dates: Wednesday 20 – Saturday 23 September 2023, Barbican Theatre

Press performance: Wednesday 20 September, 7.45pm
UK premiere

Whilst dragons are feared in the West, in Asia they contain more room for ambiguity, with popular representations including resilience, joy and optimism. In Dragons, avantgarde South Korean choreographer Eun-Me Ahn brings together modern and traditional dance styles from across Asia, embracing the vitality of hyper-connected ‘Gen-Z’ to adapt to our rapidly changing world.  

In her latest kaleidoscopic production, she introduces five young guest performers from Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan. All born in the year 2000, they appear as holograms, sharing their hopes and fresh perspectives on how past and future can coexist. They interact on the stage with Eun-Me Ahn and her company of seven South Korean performers in a joyful riot of dance, music and non-stop movement. Vivid and colourful projections bring forests and clouded skies to life, while an evocative soundtrack seamlessly blends contemporary pop and electronic music with a traditional score.

Eun-Me Ahn is one of the most important artists in South Korea. Founded in 1988, her contemporary dance company has performed at 11 major international festivals, including the 2002 FIFA world cup. As a choreographer, she regularly subverts traditional attitudes to age and gender roles with her acclaimed intergenerational works, often working with non-professionals (including a trilogy of dancing grandmothers, middle-aged men and teenagers). Dragons sees the ‘Enfant Terrible’ of Korean dance connecting with Asia's next generation of talent.

N.B. A press trip may be available to see the production in June, ahead of the UK premiere.

Performed in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian and Indonesian with English surtitles


Inua Ellams – 05Fest

Dates: Tuesday 26 – Saturday 30 September 2023, The Pit, Conservatory           
N.B. Please contact press office for reviews accreditation.

Multi-award-winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams (Barber Shop Chronicles, The Half-God of Rainfall) will
curate and host a new iteration of his acclaimed festival, showcasing the power of words and forging cross-cultural connections. His latest 05Fest takes over the Barbican with five creative and thought-provoking performance events across five days, all drawing on the theme of belonging.

 The programme will include two world premieres of new performance formats: Redacted!, (26 Sept) using Blackout poetry, a method of creating new pieces inspired by the words revealed from redacting found texts; and Anonyms (27 Sept), a rich, personal and poignant exploration into our names.

The line-up also includes three of Inua’s most popular formats: a watch-party with a literary twist, where a line-up of poets are specially commissioned to create a response to the cult classic 1992 film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (Poetry + Film / Hack, 28 Sept); a chaotic and entirely unique, audience-led, poetry mash-up where Inua performs a selection of works from his back-catalogue (Search Party, 29 Sept); and a nostalgic night of hip-hop-inspired poems - Inua gathers voices from contemporary poetry and spoken word movements to chat about hip-hop's past, present and future, featuring live DJs. (R.A.P. Party, 30 Sep).

Guest artists and further details to be announced. 

Born in Nigeria, Inua Ellams is a poet, playwright & performer, graphic artist & designer. He explores reoccurring themes in his work – Identity, Displacement and Destiny – in accessible, enjoyable ways for participants of all ages and backgrounds. His awards include The Liberty Human Rights Award, The Live Canon International Poetry Prize and The Hay Festival Medal for Poetry. His 05Fest concept puts poetry centre stage and unites separate strands of his work in different styles, and has been presented at Abbey Theatre, Dublin and The Albany, as part of Lewisham Borough of Culture.


Why Not Theatre – Mahabharata
Dates:  Sunday 1 – Saturday 7 October 2023, Barbican Theatre

Press day: Sunday 1 October 2023, 3.15pm & 7.45pm
UK premiere, Barbican co-commission

Mahabharata is a contemporary adaptation of a Sanskrit epic, exploring a devastating family feud, and profound philosophical and spiritual ideas, through stories that are more than four thousand years old and foundational to Indian culture. The new, large-scale retelling takes audiences on a journey through the past in order to write a thrilling new future.

Almost 40 years since Peter Brook’s legendary production, Why Not Theatre’s adaptation resonates powerfully today, against a backdrop of territorial war, human rights violations and climate change. Exploring the act of storytelling itself, the production evolves from ancient and intimate - a storyteller around a fire - to modern spectacle with projection, dynamic soundscapes, poetic stage design and a new opera for the most revered portion of The Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita.

Led by an international cast of performers from the South Asian diaspora, including a live band, Mahabharata presents a complex hybrid of cultures, balancing East and West, traditional and contemporary.

Mahabharata is a story that one learns over a lifetime; it needs to be absorbed and digested. On select days there will also be the option to book for a (limited capacity) community meal and storytelling session.

Why Not Theatre is an international theatre company based in Toronto, Canada, operating at the intersection of art, innovation and social change. Rooted in values of community and collaboration, Why Not challenges the status quo, rethinking how stories are told and who gets to tell them. The company has developed and produced over 50 new plays, toured to over 50 cities including a 2019 residency at the Barbican, and garnered over 40 awards and nominations.


Pam Tanowitz / David Lang - Song of Songs

Dates: Wednesday 11 – Saturday 14 October 2023, Barbican Theatre
Press performance: Wednesday 11 October, 8.15pm
UK premiere, Barbican co-commission

Song of Songs is a spiritual, playful and mystical piece of dance-theatre from New York-based artists Pam Tanowitz and Pulitzer prize-winning composer David Lang, inspired by one of the greatest love poems of all time. Building on the celebrated choreographer’s exploration of the history of Jewish dance, the uplifting new work moves between abstraction and figuration to create a meditation on loving and being.

Song of Songs (also known as The Song of Solomon) is a biblical poem of yearning, steeped in unforgettable images of the natural world. Returning to the Barbican Theatre following her outstanding Four Quartets in 2019, Pam Tanowitz joins forces with composer David Lang to bring the Old Testament text to life in a glorious collage of live music, poetry and movement that reimagines ancient rituals of love and courtship. 

Pam Tanowitz is known for deconstructing classical and contemporary dance, her distinctive vocabulary shining with invention, complexity and freedom. Her work is deeply rooted in formal structures and manipulated until the viewer sees through to the heart of the dance.

 Prolific composer David Lang’s inventive music is performed across the globe by leading orchestras and festivals, and regularly accompanies ballet and modern dance. He is the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, and Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his film scores. His opera prisoner of the state was co-commissioned by the Barbican, where it received its European premiere in 2020.


Dance Umbrella / Ioanna Paraskevopoulou MOS
Dates: Wednesday 11 – Saturday 14 October 2023, The Pit
Press performance: Wednesday 11 October, 7pm

UK premiere

Two dancers transform The Pit into a cinematic soundscape in MOS, Ioanna Paraskevopoulou’s playful and captivating audio-visual experience.

Using unexpected and everyday objects - umbrellas, plungers, and of course, coconut shells - Ioanna Paraskevopoulou and Giorgos Kotsifakis evoke the movie sounds made by foley artists in the days before digital effects. From nature scenes to zombie chases – footage is drawn from a selection of classic and contemporary films. With unbelievable precision and craft, the physical act of generating audio while following the film becomes energetic dance, with tap numbers turned into recordings that are looped, distorted, paused and intensified. 

Athens-based Ioanna Paraskevopoulou is an award-winning dancer and choreographer who focuses on the interplay between movement, sound and imagery, and whose past collaborators have included Dance Umbrella Artist Dimitris Papaioannou. The UK premiere of MOS is co-presented by Dance Umbrella and the Barbican.


Julene Robinson – The Night Woman
Dates: Thursday 19 – Saturday 21 October 2023, The Pit

Press performance: Friday 20 October, 7.45pm

A compelling new play by Julene Robinson about the power of Black womanhood, darkness and the redemptive power of self-love, told through captivating fusion of dance, singing and live music. 

Inspired by the true story of Robinson’s grandmother who was shunned and ostracised to the dark corners of post-colonial Jamaica due to her African spiritual beliefs, The Night Woman acts as a reminder that even though misery and suffering exist in the darkness, it is also where love is made and resistance is formed. 

Skilfully portraying three different women who’ve found strength in unexpected places, Robinson guides the audience on an exhilarating journey transitioning through time and generations ending in our present day, with Jamaican folk songs and Afro-Caribbean movement and music taking centre stage.

UK-based multidisciplinary artist Julene Robinson most recently performed in Get Up, Stand Up! (West End). As a writer, her work focuses on identity, gender, heritage, science and mythmaking and has been shown across the world including at the Attenborough Arts Centre and The Other Palace (UK), The Philip Sherlock Centre (Jamaica), Teatre Garagem (Portugal) and Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Scotland). The Night Woman was developed as part of the Barbican Open Lab programme.


emma + pj - Ghosts of the Near Future

Dates: Thursday 26 – Saturday 28 October 2023, The Pit
Press performance: Thursday 26 October, 7.45pm

London premiere

Following a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Barbican Open Lab alumni artists emma + pj’s apocalyptic fever dream makes its London premiere at The Pit this autumn. Working at the intersection of theatre, installation and live art, the UK-based performance duo’s evocative show navigates climatic, cultural and civilisational extinction.

Ghosts of the Near Future explores the tension between being both victims and agents of extinction, in order to live through what feels like a great disappearing act. This hallucinatory, genre-bending road-trip blends visual theatre and campfire storytelling to create a haunting collage of miracles and misdirection.

A magician travelling across the desert to Las Vegas faces bizarre encounters with a series of unexpected characters; a preacher on the roadside, a nuclear physicist, a gasoline-addicted bartender, a showgirl, and a white rabbit. An enthralling collision of live micro-cinema, image-making, music and material play conjures surreal apocalyptic landscapes to question whether we’re ready for what comes next.

emma + pj’s work explores humanity in extreme landscapes using an experimental approach. Creating cinematic and playful environments, they reimagine ways people relate to each other and the wider world. Their debut show Atlantic (VAULT Festival, 2020) was set in the middle of the ocean using live sound manipulation, while Digital Renaissance Project during the pandemic was a devised celebration of liveness, play, and community. Ghosts of the Near Future was developed as part of the Barbican Open Lab programme.


The PappyShow - 10th Birthday Pit Party

Dates: Wednesday 1 – Saturday 4 November 2023, The Pit
Press performance: Thursday 2 November, 7.45pm

Celebrating a glorious decade of The PappyShow’s bold and beautifully authentic spirit, The PappyShow: 10th Birthday Pit Party is a curated evening of radical joy, dance, music and the best of vibes.

The playful ensemble company, alumni artists of the Barbican’s Open Lab programme, host an exciting mixed-bill of performances that showcase their own work and other outstanding artists they love. With collaboration, community and marginalised identities at the heart of the night, they introduce the best of dance, physical performance, spoken word and a live DJ set. The award-winning company return following their sell-out Pit Party and subsequent run of BOYS at Barbican’s Silk Street Theatre (both in 2022).

Founded by Kane Husbands in 2013, The PappyShow is a theatre company of eight friends that brings people together to move and create space for people to dance, play and celebrate their authentic voice. As well as their critically-acclaimed productions – such as BOYS, Winner of the Origins Outstanding New Work Award at VAULT Festival and OFFIE nominated GIRLS – they lead diverse workshops that centre training for everybody and all bodies.


Rhiannon Faith Company - Lay Down Your Burdens
Dates: Tuesday 21 – Saturday 25 November 2023, The Pit

Press performance: Wednesday 22 November, 7.45pm

World premiere, Barbican co-commission

Rhiannon Faith Company premieres Lay Down Your Burdens, radically tender dance theatre that explores the beauty of humanity and the eternal need for community and compassion.

With extraordinary physical performances, brave testimonials, live music and riotous pub games, the visceral world draws together those who have been estranged or never even dreamed they were connected. Set in an on-stage pub, audiences are invited to join in with the proceedings. Lay Down Your Burdens was grown out of conversations with communities still dealing with the catastrophic impacts of pandemic and austerity and was developed from real-life experiences of the company.

The Rhiannon Faith Company returns to the Barbican following its poignant and critically acclaimed live and digital productions, Smack That (a conversation) (2018) and Drowntown Lockdown (2020).

Choreographer and Artistic Director Rhiannon Faith makes socially conscious work that raises awareness and lobbies for change around issues including depression and isolation. She has received four National Dance Award nominations, including ‘Best Independent Company’ (2021 & 2022). Previous works include Scary Shit and Smack That (a conversation) which were both developed on the Barbican Open Lab programme, and Drowntown (touring May 2023), a Barbican co-commission.


Told by an Idiot - Get Happy
Dates: Thursday 7 – Tuesday 19 December 2023, The Pit
Press performance: Friday 8 December, 3.30pm
Barbican commission (2013)

Told by an Idiot returns once again to the Barbican for a winter residency, inviting everyone of any age (babies to great grandparents!) to enter the artfully controlled chaos of Get Happy, a madcap, mischievous show featuring acrobatics, dance, live music and physical comedy. Taking its inspirations from sources as diverse as Charlie Chaplin, Dr Seuss and Pina Bausch, the show bursts with life, takes many unexpected turns and involves plenty of interaction and engagement.

This 10th anniversary production is dedicated to a true Idiot, Stephen Harper (1967-2022), and this year every performance will be BSL interpreted. Casting to be announced.

Formed in 1993, Told by an Idiot has established an international reputation for its comic and startlingly original productions. Recent productions include The Killing of Sister George (New Vic Theatre), Charlie and Stan (London, Luxembourg and UK tour), Would You Be Against Us? (Birmingham Rep and community tour), I Am Thomas (National Theatre of Scotland), The Ghost Train, Too Clever By Half, You Can’t Take It With You (Manchester Royal Exchange) and My Perfect Mind, created by Paul Hunter, Edward Petherbridge and Kathryn Hunter (Young Vic, Theatre Royal Plymouth and touring. The original production of Get Happy was commissioned by the Barbican and presented in 2013 and 2015.