The first half of the bite09 (which stands for Barbican International Theatre Events 2009) programme, running from January to May, will include new work from, amongst others, the National Theatre of Scotland, Cheek by Jowl, Improbable, Complicite, Japanese director Yukio Ninagawa, Italian experimental theatre-maker Romeo Castellucci and, returning to London after an absence of 23 years, Israel’s largest theatre company Cameri Theatre.

Productions will be performed in the Barbican Theatre, The Pit, in and around the Barbican Centre and, for the first time in bite’s ten-year history, in the Guildhall School’s Silk Street Theatre next door.

Early in the Barbican Theatre schedule (See Today’s Other News), Complicite’s new Japanese devised piece Shun-kin runs from 3 to 21 February 2009 (previews from 30 January). In March, Boy Blue Entertainment’s Pied Piper, a hip-hop dance interpretation of Robert Browning’s classic poem “The Pied Piper of Hamlin”, runs from 5 to 14 March 2009. The piece – by Michael Asante, Ultz and Kenrick Sandy, who plays the title role – won an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre after its 2006 run at Theatre Royal Stratford East.

It’s followed in the Barbican Theatre, from 24 to 28 March by Yukio Ninagawa’s Kabuki version of Twelfth Night. Though this marks the first time Ninagawa has worked in the Kabuki tradition, it’s the great classical director’s sixth visit to the Barbican, most recently with Coriolanus in 2007. Twelfth Night is performed in Japanese with English surtitles.

In the Barbican Theatre in April, Romeo Castellucci and Societas Raffaello Sanzio will present Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso, an epic trilogy freely inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, from 2 to 9 April 2009. Premiered at the 2008 Festival D’Avignon, it comes to London as part of a world tour.

From 1 to 6 May 2009 (previews from 30 April), National Theatre of Scotland – which had a Barbican hit earlier this year with the multi award-winning Black Watch - returns with its Dundee Rep co-production of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, in a new version by Colin Teevan directed by Dominic Hill that was first seen in Dundee in 2007. This revival of Ibsen’s “famously unstageable” classic won a four top gongs in this year’s Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland (See News, 16 Jun 2008). The cast includes Gerry Mulgrew and Ann Louise Ross.

Improbable, well known for Shockheaded Peter, makes its Barbican debut in The Pit with Panic, running from 15 April to 16 May 2009. The bite09 co-commission is drawn from personal stories and current obsessions with love and illness. Is the Great God Pan dead? Or is that him in the window of a Brixton flat? Or snogging a woman in a crowded bar?

After three years performing English-language work alongside pieces from its Russian repertoire, Cheek by Jowl presents its French-language production of Racine’s Andromache in the Silk Street Theatre from 22 April to 2 May 2009. First performed at Paris’ Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, it comes to the UK for a seven-week tour after extensive European dates. It’s performed in French with English with English surtitles and is mounted as part of Paris Calling, a Franco-British season of performing arts.

Other offerings in the first half of bite09 include; Israeli company Cameri’s Plonti, which presents perspectives from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (in The Pit from 27 January to 7 February); Irish step dancer Colin Dunne; the Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes’ BILLY TWINKLE Requiem for a Golden Boy; Brazil’s Bale de Rua; and a selection of shows as part of two cross-London showcases, the annual London International Mime Festival in January and the second SPILL Festival of Performance in April.

- by Terri Paddock