July 2021


Billy’s Violence

  • Text: Victor Afung Lauwers, Music: Maarten Seghers
  • Needcompany
  • Directed by Jan Lauwers
  • Sala Gran
  • 8/07/2021 al 11/07/2021

Jan Lauwers and Needcompany return to Barcelona with a show that reviews the most violent world of Shakespeare’s work

For Billy’s Violence, Victor Lauwers researched the ten tragedies of Shakespeare and rewrote them into violently loving, intimate dialogues in which the woman is the central focus, stripped of any historical reference or anecdotal content.

Erwin Jans: ‘Shakespeare may have never been so brutally and provocatively stripped. Obscene, hard and poetic. Words. Words. Words. But there are hardly any words left. Only some highlights. Recognizable poetry - Shakespeare quotes - that flashes like lightning against a dark night and disappears just as quickly. Just long enough to recognise the landscape, but too short to find its way.
When the curtain falls over Shakespeare’s tragedies, order is restored. Over a mountain of corpses, the calm of the equilibrium descends once more. In what precedes this - the actual play - a departure from all moral rules is staged, a deep rent in the social fabric, an excess of aggression and violence. Is this excess only required to more convincingly demonstrate the need for the law? Or does the violence contain its own insight? Its own truth? And what might that be?’

Shakespeare is the most read and performed writer the world has ever known. And yet many of the bard’s plays are virtually unperformable due to their violence, gruesomeness, racism and misogyny. What does violence in art mean in today’s world? Why do we enjoy watching it so much? Is violence viewed differently today than it was in the 16th-17th century?

Jan Lauwers: ‘Shakespeare wanted an audience in his theatre, but in the streets of London there were dog fights and torture. Women were being burnt in the squares, public executions took place. These were large-scale festivities that brought many people together on the streets and Shakespeare had to use sex and violence, among other things, to lure the audience to his theatre. That is very interesting. It is not dissimilar to Quentin Tarantino. Is it gratuitous, entertaining, or is it necessary or impossible? Quentin Tarantino is a choirboy by comparison to the sheer brutality evoked by Shakespeare.

I am increasingly convinced that we need to find a different way of thinking which shows that all people are against violence. We think that everyone is bad, but that is not true. The majority is not violent; there is great solidarity. If we go back in history - and I keep coming across Shakespeare and his tragedies - then maybe we can find something.’

Needcompany is an artists’ company set up by the artists Jan Lauwers and Grace Ellen Barkey in 1986. Maarten Seghers has been a member of Needcompany since 2001. Lauwers, Barkey and Seghers form the core of the company, and it embraces all their artistic work: theatre, dance, performance, visual art, writing, etc. Their creations are shown at the most prominent venues at home and abroad.

Since the very beginning, Needcompany has presented itself as an international, multilingual, innovative and multidisciplinary company. This diversity is reflected best in the ensemble itself, in which on average 7 different nationalities are represented. Over the years Needcompany has put increasing emphasis on this ensemble and several artistic alliances have flourished: Lemm&Barkey (Grace Ellen Barkey and Lot Lemm) and OHNO COOPERATION (Maarten Seghers and Jan Lauwers).

Needcompany revolves around the individual artist. Everything is founded on the artistic project, on authenticity, necessity and meaning. The medium itself is continually questioned, and there is constant examination of the quality of the content to be conveyed in relation to the form it takes. Needcompany believes in quality, cooperation and innovation. Needcompany is a leading voice in the social debate on the urgency and beauty of art at both a domestic and an international level.

Production team

Directed by
Jan Lauwers
Victor Afung Lauwers
Elke Janssensand Erwin Jans
Nao Albet, Grace Ellen Barkey, Gonzalo Cunill, Martha Gardner, Romy Louise Lauwers, Juan Navarro, Maarten Seghers and Meron Verbelen
  • + Information
    Direction, scenography and costumes
    Jan Lauwers

    Maarten Seghers

    Technical and production
    Marjolein Demey
    Ken Hioco
    Tijs Michiels
    Dramaturgical assistance
    Erwin Jans

    Lighting design
    Ken Hioco

    Costumes and props assistant
    Nina Lopez Le Galliard

    Festival Grec de Barcelona, Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, Teatro Español y Naves del Español en Matadero, Teatro Central (Sevilla, Spain) and Les Salins - Scène Nationale de Martigues

    Tax Shelter funding
    BNP Paribas Fortis Film Finance NV/SA

    Produced with the support of the
    Tax Shelter of the Belgian Federal Government and the Flemish Government