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Open Lab

Theatre and Dance

Louise Varjack, KISS KISS CRY KILL

Barbican Theatre Open Lab 2021/22

Submissions for the Theatre and Dance Open Lab are now closed until Summer of 2022

The Barbican Theatre’s Open Lab programme gives artists the opportunity to research and develop a new project, idea or performance.

We are looking for submissions that develop and create:

New voices

We’re looking to support early to mid-career artists. We’re committed to nurturing and developing creative talents and voices from a multiplicity of backgrounds, practices and contexts and are particularly interested in hearing from people who are underrepresented on our stages including ethnic minorities, Black artists/Black-led theatre companies, LGBTQ+ artists/companies, and d/Deaf and disabled artists/companies.

New audiences

We aim to inspire more people to discover and access the arts. We’re looking to support socially engaged, pioneering work from a multitude of voices that reaches and meaningfully engages with new audiences.

New ideas

We want to support the development of work that explores new methods and approaches, challenging the idea of what theatre or dance can be. We are interested in work that crosses art forms and embraces innovation.

New challenges

We are looking to support and develop artists who are being ambitious, challenging themselves and experimenting. We want to ensure this opportunity has the maximum possible impact, helping artists to develop their practice and move to the next stage of their career.

We are offering:


· A week’s residency in the Pit to experiment and develop your project, idea or performance.

· Technical provision, support and advice from our production team.

· A financial contribution towards your project of £2,000 to support you to pay collaborators.

Additional funding for access requirements is available for successful applicants upon request.

Training and Mentoring

· A Barbican Theatre Producer for advice and support with whom you will have regular check ins to discuss the progress of your project, including time before, during and after your residency.

· Training sessions from external partner organisations to support and develop self-sustaining practise on subjects such as fundraising, strategic planning, community engagement and making accessible performance.

· In-house training sessions with Barbican staff members in other departments such as marketing, company development, digital content, creative learning, curation and more.

· Six sessions with a mentor or coach selected by you to give bespoke guidance and advice on your project.


· Invitations and complimentary tickets for shows and events at the Barbican on an ad hoc basis and subject to availability.

· Inclusion on our website

· Meetings with members of Barbican staff from departments of your choice

2022 Artists

In 2022 we'll be working with six different artists and collectives listed below.

emma + pj is the collaboration between American theatre-maker Emma Clark and British maker PJ Stanley. We create experiences that blur the lines between theatre, installation, and live art. It’s the liveness that interests us - the weird stuff that happens when you put strangers in a room together, the infinite possibilities of the present moment. We create playful environments that invite us to reimagine how we relate to each other & the wider world. We've presented recent work at New Diorama Theatre, VAULT Festival, Shoreditch Town Hall, The Yard Theatre, BAC, Camden People's Theatre and digitally with Andy's Summer Playhouse.

Krishna Istha is a writer, comedian and live artist making socially conscious form-pushing work that speaks to taboo or underrepresented experiences of gender, race and sexual politics.

Since 2013, Krishna has performed, devised and collaborated with artists and theatre companies on works that span across theatre, opera, comedy and performance art. Select performance credits include: Wild Bore (2017, Malthouse Theatre Melbourne, Sydney Festival, Traverse Theatre Edinburgh, Soho Theatre, Skirball Centre New York, Sophiensaele Berlin); Sex Worker’s Opera (2015, Pleasance Theatre, Campagnie Theatre Amsterdam); and Beast (2019, Arts House Melbourne, Welsh Millenium Centre Cardiff and Blueroom Perth). 

Currently, they are writing on Sex Education (Netflix), and is an Arts Admin Bursary Artist

Seemia Theatre are an award-winning international ensemble of 6 members from Iran, Argentina and the UK, led by Iranian Director Sara Amini. We believe in theatre as a tool to open doors and break barriers, and through socially-engaged devised performances we endeavour to bring communities together.

Seemia’s devised performances fuse European physical theatre & musicality, British script-writing and Persian storytelling in order to make a vibrant mural of stories to connect audiences with current social and political issues. From Persian, Seemia translates as ‘Casting a spell with words;’ as an ensemble we aim to create work that is truly spell-binding.

Stephen Bailey is a neurodivergent/disabled theatre maker who explores reclaiming classic texts and representations of disability through a political disabled lens. They were recently commissioned to make a learning-disabled centred adaptation of Pedro Calderón de la Barca's Life is a Dream for the London Liberty Festival and are also developing a digital show exploring experiences of psychosis. They were resident assistant director at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2020, are currently a staff director at the National Theatre and previously worked with Graeae, Hampstead Theatre and the European Theatre Convention. They are artistic director of ASYLUM Arts, a cic focused on better representation and engagement with neurodivergent artists in the wider theatre community.

HiddenViewz are a collective of young creatives from the global majority with a burning passion for social change. They aim to bring a different perspective to the arts and provide a platform for those who are often overlooked in society; these stories are introduced through theatre, film, music and photography. The collective mostly specialise in political, immersive performances – “they like to make the audience uncomfortable, like they can’t eat dinner after.” With previous shows titled Black Love Matters and Under the Mental Health Act, this team are not afraid to break boundaries and debunk social stereotypes.

Clumsy Bodies is the collaborative identity of Jess Rahman-González and Oli Isaac.  They are two trans and disabled artists and they are in LOVE. Clumsy Bodies make work about trans narratives through the lens of their romantic relationship.  Their work - across poetry, live art and filmmaking - is playful and unconventional, and strongly rooted in multimedia.  They believe there is a demand for amusing, absurd experiences for trans audiences. In their current practice, Clumsy Bodies are big fans of horror tropes and not so much fans of the fourth wall. 

2021 Alumni

In 2021 we worked with six different artists and collectives listed below.

Nicole places investigation at the centre point of practice; within which are diverse, interdisciplinary processes that have motivated a vibrant repertoire of engagements. In 2019 Nicole was selected by the British Council to attend the UK in Japan programme of arts and cultural activities. Nicole’s artistic preoccupations parallel her work in D/deaf advocacy, in 2015 the Royal Ballet awarded Nicole a benevolent bursary to begin five-years of British Sign Language (BSL) education, that will culminate in 2021 with an interpreter qualification. Nicole also holds a specialist interest in East Asian Buddhist thought and this Summer, completed an MA in Japanese Studies, from the School of African and Asian Studies, (SOAS) University of London.

Peyvand is an interdisciplinary Performer & Performance maker. She makes unpredictable, punchy theatre that seeks to activate an audience, prompting them to consider the world around them and their place within it.

Recent credits include: Hachette x Tamasha writers 2020, artsdepot Artists residency 2020, DUAL دوگانه - Vault Festival 2020 (Show of the week award), Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran (Fringe First award 2019), Pirates (Reggie Yates/ Hillbilly Films currently in post-production), Starting Blocks residency Camden People’s Theatre 2019, Soho Writers Lab 2019

Malik Nashad Sharpe (b. 1992, New York) is a choreographer, dancer, and movement director whose work looks at the production of ontology, affect, and subjectivity from the perspective of marginalisation. Often working with the undercurrent, underneath, subversive, and ulterior aspects of what it means to be both a human, and dehumanised, their work has often topically explored themes around sexual assault, melancholia and melancholic subjectivity, nationalism, authoritarianism, the spectacle around Black death, figuring solidarity across borders and identity markers, the protestation latent in joyousness, Tupac’s depression, amongst many other topics. Creating under their prolific alias marikiscrycrycry, their performance practice has a cult following in London’s underground performance scene.

Julene Robinson is multiple award nominated & winning theatre maker, multidisciplinary performance artist and scientist based in the UK. Robinson completed an undergraduate degree in Pure and Environmental Chemistry at the University of the West Indies. During Robinson’s academic career she was able to harness the transformative power of art and bear reverence to the responsibility that comes with practicing it. She then completed a MA in Theatre at Rose Bruford College. Her work focuses on identity, gender, heritage, science and mythmaking. She interrogates through research and filters these digestions through the body in the medium of theatre and live arts.

We are pink suits, a Queer Feminist Punk Rock & Rage duo based in Margate, UK. Formed in 2017, pink suits make loud aggressive political punk music as well as dance, physical theatre, film and art. Our work is an exploration of sexuality, fantasy, mental health, politics, activism and is a resistance of binary gender expectations, questioning how voices and bodies can be used as a form of protest.

London based Writer and Actor Yolanda Mercy's first play was On the Edge of Me presented at Soho Theatre where she is currently on attachment (as a Soho Six). Yolanda is a published author with Oberon Books for Quarter Life Crisis. Quarter Life Crisis won the Underbelly Untapped award, toured to venues such as Underbelly and soho Theatre and was revived this year at The Bridge Theatre.

2020 Alumni

In 2020 we worked with six different artists and collectives listed below.

Paula Varjack and Chuck Blue Lowry met working on an intergenerational women’ s project for Magic Me. They discovered their practices were inverses of each other; Chuck training in performance and then film, Paula training in film and then moving into performance. Working together again on a women’s participation project for Cardboard Citizens and Clean Break, they became keen to bring together their video and performance experience with their work in participation. They have both spent the same amount of their lives in London and lived in different parts of Europe. They both have British fathers and foreign mothers but identify with both cultures. This sparked an ongoing conversation between them about their relationship to being “foreign"?

Louise Orwin is an award-winning writer and performance maker. She makes research-driven theatre projects about subjects that are close to home, hard to get your head around, and need to be spoken about. Often this means making work about what it means to identify as female today, in a fast-moving, media-saturated world that prizes patriarchal, heteronormative narratives. Louise likes to make work that is provocative and brash, intimate, awkward at times, and generally filled with a heady dose of pop culture. Her work has toured all over the UK and internationally, receiving global critical acclaim. Past work includes: viral docu-theatre Pretty Ugly, which was featured national and international press all over the world: and award-winning A Girl and A Gun (Vice, Guardian, BBC). Louise received the Flying Solo Award in 2015, was a finalist for the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust in 2018, and was part of the British Council Edinburgh Showcase in 2019.

Nouveau Riché is a multi-award-winning arts production company and an ever-expanding creative movement. Discovering, nurturing and producing unique stories from all walks of life. Nouveau Riché make culturally inclusive work that is educational and entertaining, across all art forms.

Claire Gaydon is a theatre-maker and performer creating work in the East Midlands and London. Described as ‘a talent to keep an eye on’ (Gareth Vile, LIST), she specialises in creating research-driven, multi-disciplinary theatre blending social experiment, live performance and multimedia. Recurring themes underlying her work are new technologies, social media and sex. Claire is one of Camden People's Theatre's 2019 Starting Blocks Artists, where she began development on her new show Piece of Me. Her current show See-Through ('Ingenious and thought-provoking' - Lyn Gardner) is touring UK theatres Autumn 2019 & Spring 2020. 

The PappyShow are a playful physical and visual ensemble theatre company. Formed in January 2013 by Kane Husbands in order to provide a space for actors and non-actors to train in physical theatre, they use exercise and training to devise and create work.  Community cohesion and working together is key to the company’s ensemble ethos.  With their performing company, they are currently touring three pieces; 'BOYS', 'GIRLS' and 'CARE'. 

Rachel Mars is a multi-award-winning performance maker with a background in theatre, live art and comedy. Mars’ Our Carnal Hearts won A Total Theatre Award at the British Council Showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe.  With nat tarrab as mars.tarrab she was winner of the 2017 Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award and presented ROLLER in the Pit Theatre. Recent commissions have included Leeds Playhouse, The Junction, Cambridge; Royal Court Tottenham; Fuel Theatre and Ovalhouse. She is a fellow at the Birkbeck Centre of Contemporary Theatre and a regular contributor to 'Pause for Thought' on BBC Radio 2.

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Supported using public funding by Arts Council England