At a press launch held today at the Barbican Centre, renowned international theatre company Cheek by Jowl announced a partnership that will see it presenting six productions at the City-based arts complex over the next three years (See The Goss, 5 Aug 2004).

Each year, starting from May 2006, the company will originate one new work in English at the Barbican as well as bringing one of its existing Russian productions to the venue for a London season. The productions will be housed in the Barbican Theatre which, as for the Young Vic’s upcoming Young Genius season (See News, 17 Jun 2005), will be reconfigured as a more intimate 400-seat (as opposed to 1160-seat) space. All of the productions will also tour internationally.

Next year, the two Cheek by Jowl plays will be Declan Donnellan’s new version of the 5,000-year-old Sumerian epic Gilgamesh and the all-male Russian staging of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. In 2007, the new work will be a production of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline while the visiting production, just opened in Moscow, will be Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Programming for 2008 has yet to be announced.

Arts Council England (ACE) has awarded Cheek by Jowl £900,000 to deliver the outlined programming. As part of the arrangement, the company has also set up administration offices at the Barbican.

Founded in 1981 by British director Declan Donnellan and designer Nick Ormerod (pictured together), Cheek by Jowl has produced and toured, to a wide range of countries, more than 25 productions, many of them English premieres of European classics or original stagings of Shakespeare. In 1998, Donnellan and Ormerod disbanded the company in favour of freelance projects. Last year’s Othello, which opened in Oxford in March 2004 and visited six further venues in this country, marked the company’s first UK tour in six years.

Speaking at today’s press launch at the Barbican, Donnellan said: “I’ve always had commitment problems about buildings, but I have a deep need for a home now.” He added, raising a glass with all those present, “It’s wonderful to be back in London. Here’s a toast to a great city.”

Along with Cheek by Jowl, Michael Clark Dance Company today joined the Barbican’s “family” of Artistic Associates, which already includes the LSO (the resident orchestra), the BBC Symphony Orchestra (associate orchestra) and Serious (associate producer). Louise Jeffreys, head of theatre at the Barbican, commented: "Over the years, we've worked with a number of national and international performers and companies in creative partnerships, including Merce Cunningham, Complicite and Robert Lepage. Declan, Nick and Michael bring two major companies into partnership with BITE (Barbican International Theatre Events) and provide a source of inspiration for theatre practitioners of the future."

- by Terri Paddock