Jan Lauwers (Antwerp, 1957) is an artist who works in just about every medium. Over the last twenty years he has become best known for his pioneering work for the stage with Needcompany, which was founded in Brussels in 1986. Needcompany has been artist-in-residence at the Burgtheater in Vienna since 2009. Over the years he has also built up a substantial body of art work which was shown in an exhibition at BOZAR (Brussels) in 2007. Jan Lauwers is awarded with the ‘Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic Austria’ (2012). In 2014, he has been rewarded with the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award at the Venice Biennale. He is the first Belgian to receive this prize in the theatre category.

Jan Lauwers studied painting at the Academy of Art in Ghent. At the end of 1979 he gathers round him a number of people to form the Epigonenensemble. In 1981 this group is transformed into the Epigonentheater zlvcollective which takes the theatre-world by surprise with its six stage productions. In this way Jan Lauwers takes his place in the movement for radical change in Flanders in the early ‘80, and makes his international breakthrough. Epigonentheater zlvpresents direct, concrete, highly visual theatre that uses music and language as structuring elements. Their productions areAlready Hurt and not yet War (1981), dE demonstratie (1983), Bulletbird (1983), Background of a Story (1984) and Incident (1985). Jan Lauwers disbands this collective in 1985 and founds Needcompany.

Jan Lauwers needs company. He founds Needcompany together with Grace Ellen Barkey. They together are responsible for Needcompany larger-scale productions. Since Needcompany was founded in 1986, both its work and its performers have been markedly international. Its first productions, Need to Know (1987) and ça va (1989) are still highly visual, but in subsequent productions the storyline and the main theme gain in importance, although the fragmentary composition remains.

Lauwers’ training as a visual artist is decisive in his handling of the theatre medium and leads to a highly individual and in many ways pioneering theatrical idiom that examines the theatre and its meaning. One of its most important characteristics is a transparent, ‘thinking’ acting and the paradox between ‘acting’ and ‘performing’.


Need to Know
Opening: March 24th 1987, Mickery, Amsterdam

ça va
Opening: March 18th 1989, Theater am Turm, Frankfurt

Julius Caesar
Opening: May 31st 1990, Rotterdamse Schouwburg

Opening: May 18th 1991, Centro Andaluz de Teatro, Sevilla

Antonius und Kleopatra
Opening: February 14th 1992, Theater am Turm, Frankfurt

Opening: October 21st 1992, Theater am Turm, Frankfurt

opera by Walter Hus
Opening: May 23rd 1993, Bourlaschouwburg, Antwerp

The Snakesong Trilogy - Snakesong/Le Voyeur
Opening: March 24th 1994 , Theater am Turm, Frankfurt

The Snakesong Trilogy - Snakesong/Le Pouvoir (Leda)
Opening: May 11th 1995, Dance 95, Munich

Needcompany's Macbeth
Opening: March 26th 1995, Lunatheater, Brussels

The Snakesong Trilogy - Snakesong/Le Désir
Opening: November 6th 1996, Kanonhallen, Kopenhagen

Caligula, No beauty for me there, where human life is rare, part one première: 5 September 1997, Documenta X, Kassel

The Snakesong Trilogy
reworked version with live music
Opening: April 16th 1998, Lunatheater, Brussels

Morning Song, No beauty for me there, where human life is rare, part two
Opening: January 13th 1999, Lunatheater, Brussels

Needcompany’s King Lear
Opening: January 11th 2000, Lunatheater, Brussels

DeaDDogsDon´tDance/ DjamesDjoyceDeaD
Opening: May 12th 2000, Das TAT, Frankfurt

Ein Sturm
Opening: March 22nd 2001, Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg

Images of Affection
Opening: February 28th 2002, Stadsschouwburg Brugge

No Comment
Opening: April 24th 2003, Kaaitheater Brussels

Isabella's room
Opening: July 9th 2004, Cloître des Carmes, Festival d’Avignon

All is Vanity
Opening: July 8th 2006, Théâtre Municipal, Festival d’Avignon

The Lobster Shop
Opening: July 10th 2006, Cloître des Célestins, Festival d’Avignon

The Deer House
Opening: July 28th 2008, Perner-Insel, Hallein, Salzburger Festspiele

Sad Face / Happy Face
Opening: August 1st 2008, Perner-Insel, Hallein, Salzburger Festspiele

The art of enertainment
Opening: March 5th 2011, Akademietheater (Burgtheater), Vienna

Opening: May 17th 2012, Kasino (Burgtheater), Vienna

Marketplace 76
Opening: September 7th 2012, Ruhrtriennale, Jahrhunderthalle, Bochum

Begin the Beguine
Opening: March 1st 2014, Akademietheater (Burgtheater), Vienna

The Blind Poet
Opening: May 12th 2015, Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels

War and Turpentine
Opening: December 7nd 2017, Toneelhuis, Antwerp