The season starts with three presentations as part of the 2009 London International Mime Festival. Aurélian Bory makes his Barbican Theatre debut, transforming the stage into a huge tangram – an ancient Chinese game – as 14 performers manipulate the colossal forms in Les Sept Planches De La Ruse (running Jan. 14-17, 2009). In the Pit, Martin Schwietzke combines his adroit juggling skills with Michael Bismut's musical score in L'Ecume de l'Air (Jan. 20-24), and Buchinger's Boot Marionettes makes its Barbican debut with The Armature of the Absolute, an uproarious paean to the avant-garde French writer Alfred Jarry in this puppet show for adults (Jan. 13-17). Marionette enthusiasts can return to the Barbican later in the year to see master puppeteer Ronnie Burkett in his fifth visit to bite, this time performing his latest show, Billy Twinkle, Requiem for a Golden Boy, in the Silk Street Theatre (running March 18-28), the inaugural BITE production in this venue at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama next door. This will mark the opening of the door, which has been closed for many years, separating the Barbican Centre from the Guildhall School, allowing bite audiences to access the space for the first time.
Complicite will make its sixth appearance in the Barbican Theatre with the previously announced new Japanese show Shun-kin directed by Simon McBurney, inspired by two texts written by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, and running Jan. 30-Feb. 21. This production reunites the team that created The Elephant Vanishes, a huge hit during bite03, revived the following year due to demand. Later, revered Japanese classical director Yukio Ninagawa directs a kabuki version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night for Shochiku Grand Kabuki, running March 24-28. This is Ninagawa's sixth visit to bite and is the first time the celebrated theatre director works with this traditional Japanese theatre form.
Over the years the bite program has gained a reputation for bringing some of the world's most lauded practitioners to London. This season sees one of the giants of international theatre, Romeo Castellucci, making his Barbican debut with his ambitious trilogy inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy, originally premiered at the 2008 Festival d'Avignon (where Castellucci is an associate artist) and now coming to the Barbican as part of a world tour, whose appearance here is under the banner of the SPILL Festival of Performance, running April 2-26 at venues across London. Inferno and Purgatorio will be staged in the Barbican Theatre April 2-9, whilst Paradiso is an installation in the Silk Street Theatre.
Also under the banner of SPILL, Needcompany makes its London debut in the Silk Street Theatre with The Porcelain Project, an erotic allegory about power, lust and desire running April 14-15, and Pacitti Company makes its second visit to bite with A Forest, an unflinching exploration of myth, money and magic, running in the Pit April 7-9.
Also in April, the Pit plays host to more myth-making, courtesy of critically acclaimed theatre company Improbable. Panic, co-commissioned by barbicanbite09, runs in the Pit Apri 15-May 16, is the company's newest work and takes the Greek God Pan, from whom the word "panic" is derived, as its starting point. The past three years have seen Barbican artistic associate Cheek by Jowl perform a new English-language work alongside a piece from its Russian repertoire in a specially reconfigured Barbican Theatre. For bite09 the company moves into the Silk Street Theatre April 22-May 2, where audiences can see its French-language play Andromaque by Jean Racine, which premiered at the Théàtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris, and comes to London as part of a national tour.
Following the success of The Harder They Come during bite08, which subsequently transferred to the West End's Playhouse, the Barbican collaborates again with Theatre Royal Stratford East, who, in association with bite09, presents Boy Blue Entertainment's Pied Piper, which won an Olivier Award when it premiered at Theatre Royal Stratford East in 2006. This hip-hop street dance interpretation of the poem will run in the Barbican Theatre March 5-14, presented as part of the 2009 East Festival.
The National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep Ensemble, two companies which have previously appeared in the bite program, join forces for a new version of Peer Gynt, written by Colin Teevan and directed by Dominic Hill, which premiered at Dundee Rep in 2007 and now comes to the Barbican Theatre for a season from April 30-May 16.
In the Pit, Israel's largest theatre company, Cameri Theatre, returns to London after an absence of 23 years with Plonter, an illuminating exposé of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict told from both perspectives, running Jan. 27-Feb. 7.
The bite program also includes dance events, including Colin Dunne presenting his solo show Out of Time (in the Pit, Feb. 7-28); the Bellboys (Les Grooms) making their fourth visit to the Barbican to present La Baronnade, a community procession of brass band, opera singers and ballet dancers (in public spaces around the Barbican March 7-8); and Balé de Rua performing its eponymous show, seen at the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in the Barbican Theatre (May 20-31), in which 15 dancers chart Brazil's history from its African heritage to the present.
Tickets are now on sale to Barbican members and will go on sale to the general public Oct. 24. To book tickets, contact the box office at 0845 120 7550 or visit www.barbican.org.uk/bite.