A small community is severely challenged in Jan Lauwers' kaleidoscopic drama.

Marktplaats 76

Jan Lauwers & Needcompany

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Marketplace 76 is the darkest story Jan Lauwers has written for his high-spirited ensemble. With Lauwers himself in the role of narrator and leader of the brass band, Needcompany sings and dances the story of the village. A village that is mourning the consequences of a tragic explosion on the marketplace.

The performers bring mourning and sorrow, incest and abduction, paedophilia and suicide to life in a passionate community full of excessive love, friendship, happiness and survival. The questions Jan Lauwers asks in the play go to the heart of twenty-first century politics. In a globalised world, the things that once held a society together – tradition, religion, ethnicity, nationality and so on – have lost their self-evident binding force. The possibility (or impossibility) of coexistence is the crucial issue in Jan Lauwers’ plays over the last decade: Isabella’s room (2004), The Lobster Shop (2006), The Deer House (2008) – together the Sad Face | Happy Face trilogy – are all stories about the forces that bind a group together or break it apart.

In Marketplace 76 Jan Lauwers tells the story of the deliverance of a community. The market was and still is the starting and finishing point of demonstrations and events, expressions of the citizens’ will. It is the place for public speaking. The things that concern the community take place on the marketplace, and vice versa: whatever happens on the marketplace concerns the community. The epic play gives Lauwers the opportunity to let the village undergo a sort of psychoanalysis.




text, direction, set
Jan Lauwers
Rombout Willems
Maarten Seghers
Hans Petter Dahl
Lot Lemm
dramaturgy and subtitles
Elke Janssens
choreography assistant
Misha Downey
Ditten Lerooij
Ken Hioco
Marjolein Demey
Hans Petter Dahl
Catherine Travelletti
Benoît Gob,
Anneke Bonnema
Julien Faure
Sung-Im Her
Yumiko Funaya
Grace Ellen Barkey
Romy Louise Lauwers
Emmanuel Schwartz
Maarten Seghers
Jan Lauwers
Elke Janssens
production management
Luc Galle
Paul Contryn (de Maan)
Irmgard Mertens
Klaas Trekker
Elke Van Der Kelen
Burgtheater Wien
Holland Festival
with support of
Vlaamse overheid

background information

Director Jan Lauwers wrote Marktplaats 76 (Marketplace 76) from a sense of anger about the serious lack of solidarity in our modern society. According to him society has become a machine which produces exclusion, disenfranchisement and insecurity: of the poor, the unemployed, the homeless, the illegal, refugees and migrants.

The village of Marketplace 76 has a baker, a butcher, a plumber, etc. But the idyll this kind of village seems to suggest is nowhere to be found. A tight-knit community sharing its traditions, religion, ethnicity and nationality it is not. The inhabitants are faced with issues of incest, paedophilia and suicide. Around the fountain on the market square there are heaps of refuse, rotting food and vermin. It's where homeless people, beggars and riffraff congregate, and where all manner of languages mix: intimate, obscene, racist, sexist, xenophobic, vulgar, uncouth, insulting, abusive, strong, aggressive...the type of foul language we have come to know from the gutters of the internet. As well as the stereotypical villagers, there are also a number of street cleaners on stage, marginalised people who we normally might not notice.

How does such a modern society respond when hit by a catastrophe? That is the central question that Jan Lauwers and his ensemble Needcompany pose. The piece starts with the commemoration of a gas explosion a year earlier, which killed 24 people from the village, including 7 children. The service soon gets completely out of hand, the mourners competing over who is suffering the most. The pain, it appears, cannot be put into words. Only in the inebriated babble of Anneke, the butcher's wife, we get an idea of how deep the wounds are. Having had too much to drink, she complains that her husband Benoit has not wanted to have sex with her since their daughter died and since she herself has been confined to a wheelchair due to the accident. She's not the only one. It appears that none of the men in the village are sleeping with their wives. All life energy seems to have been drained from the community. Paralysed by their intense grief, the villagers seem trapped in sterile relations with each other, symbolising the wider social sterility which is threatening to suffocate the civilised and democratic Western world.

The tense atmosphere during the commemoration is heightened when it appears that that same morning Oscar, the son of the baker, has killed himself. To make matters even worse, in the aftermath of the memorial, Pauline, Oscar's sister, is kidnapped by the pedophile plumber Alfred Signoret. Signoret's wife, Kim-Ho, knows about this, but does nothing, in order to save her own daughter Michèle from her husband's depravity (The characters of Signoret and Kim Ho are modelled on the infamous serial killer and child molester Marc Dutroux and his girlfriend Michele Martin). There seems to be no end to the suffering in the village. Then, at the end of the completely derailed commemoration, a ship comes falling out of the sky, with only one person on board, the refugee Squinty. However, although the ship and its single occupant might seem almost a literal deus ex machina, they too can bring no salvation.

After 76 days Pauline is discovered. Signoret will have to pay for his crime, as feelings of revenge mix with the intense grief the villagers have been bottling up all that time. When the plumber falls into the fountain, people look the other way and let him drown. Subsequently, he is hung high up from the ceiling of the theatre. But revenge cannot alleviate their grief. Nor can the punishment that they have thought up for Kim-Ho, 76 days of solitary confinement in her house, return peace and love to the village. The community endures another long and severe winter before salvation presents itself unexpectedly in the figure of Kim-Ho. While the men are not sleeping with their wives, they do visit Kim-Ho, who has volunteered to put herself up as the village's prostitute. The primal force of her sexuality breaks the deadlock. Eventually, she gives birth to a giant baby, which could have been fathered by any of the men in the village. The baby symbolises a new society, in which identity is not based on descent, affiliation or origin, but on the power of love and sex, which binds us all and which allows the village of Marketplace 76 to begin to live again.


Jan Lauwers stresses the importance of community and solidarity in Marketplace 76 by using group singing and live music composed by Maarten Seghers, Hans Petter Dahl and Rombout Willems. It's not the first time that live music is played or that the actors sing in Lauwers' work, but it has never been done in such an inviting way before and never have the musical and vocal parts in his plays been so great. According to Lauwers Western culture has become estranged from group singing and the ritual dimension it brings, which generates a very different energy from the spoken word. For Lauwers, unlike the spoken word, singing and making music is to do with festivity, celebration and community spirit.


Jan Lauwers (Antwerp, 1957) is a Flemish artist who works across many disciplines. Over the past twenty years he has gained much acclaim for his groundbreaking work with Needcompany, the theatre company he formed in Brussels in 1986.

Lauwers studied painting at the Ghent Academy of Fine Arts. In 1979, he gathered a group of people together and started the Epigonenensemble, which he changed into the Epigonentheater zlv (zonder leiding van, a pun on 'onder leiding van', meaning 'without the direction of' as opposed to 'under the direction of'). This theatre collective has made an impression with its concrete, direct and strongly visual brand of theatre, in which music and language were the structuring elements. His work in the theatre established Lauwers as part of the movement for radical change in Flanders in the early 1980's and brought about his international breakthrough. After disbanding the collective in 1985, Lauwers and Grace Ellen Barkey founded Needcompany. As well as theatre productions, Lauwers has also produced a substantial body of work in art, film and other projects. In the spring of 2006, Lauwers presented video work as part of the DARK exhibition at the Boijmans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam. His first solo exhibition was in 2007 in BOZAR (Brussels). In 2011 Lauwers' Last Guitar Monster was exhibited at Time Canvas. His latest art work is The House of Our Fathers, an installation which for Lauwers conveys the transition between theatre and art. Lauwers has also made various films and videos in his career. His feature film The Goldfish Games, released in 2001, picked up many international awards. In 2006, Lauwers started Needlapb, a 'one-off space for ideas, notes, sketches and thoughts'. Needlapb spawned a number of projects, including Just for Brussels, Deconstructions and The House of Our Fathers, as well as a number of projects within the OHNO COOPERATION, a collaboration in the fields of music, visual arts and performance with Maarten Seghers.

In 2012, Jan Lauwers received the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria.


Needcompany was founded in 1986 by Jan Lauwers and Grace Ellen Barkey. Both are responsible for the larger scale productions the company creates. The group of people which they have gathered around them in the course of the past 25 years or so is unique in its broad scope. The 'associated performing artists' are MaisonDahlBonnema (Hans Petter Dahl & Anna Sophia Bonnema), Lemm&Barkey (Lot Lemm & Grace Ellen Barkey), OHNO Cooperation (Maarten Seghers & Jan Lauwers) and the NC ensemble, including Viviane De Muynck. They all create their own work under the wings of Needcompany. Since its formation, both the productions and the group of performers of Needcompany are distinctly international in their orientation. Every single production has been played in multiple languages. Needcompany's first productions – Need to Know (1987) and Ça va (1989), which received the Mobil Pegasus Preis – were still very visual. Since, the narrative and a central theme have gained in importance, although the fragmentary construction of their pieces has been retained. Jan Lauwers' background as an artist is critical to his handling of theatre as a medium, spawning an idiosyncratic, in many ways pioneering dramatic language, exploring the theatre and its meaning. One of the most important characteristics of this language is the practice of transparent and 'thinking' acting, and the paradox between 'acting' and 'performing'. Violence, love, eroticism and death are the main themes which Lauwers has constantly reformulated and redefined at Needcompany from the start. In 1994 Lauwers started an extensive new project within Needcompany,for which he was the sole author for the first time: The Snakesong Trilogy, consisting of Snakesong/Le Voyeur (1994), Snakesong/Le Pouvoir (1995) and Snakesong/Le Désir (1996). In September 1997, Lauwers and Needcompany were invited for the theatre section of Documenta X (Kassel), for which he created Caligula after Camus, the first part of his diptych No beauty for me there, where human life is rare. With Morning Song (1999), the second part of No beauty … Lauwers and Needcompany won an Obie Award in New York. In 2000, at the invitation of William Forsythe, Lauwers created DeaDDogsDon’tDance/DjamesDjoyceDeaD, a co-production with Ballett Frankfurt. In 2002 he created Images of Affection, on the occasion of Needcompany's 15th anniversary. The following year, Lauwers presented No Comment, which consisted of three monologues, written by Josse de Pauw, Charles Mee and Lauwers himself, and a dance solo. In 2004, Needcompany staged Isabella's Room at the Festival d'Avignon, starring actress Viviane de Muynck. The production received many awards, including the 2006 Flemish Community Culture Prize in the playwriting category. In 2006, Lauwers created two productions for the Avignon Festival: The Lobstershop (Holland Festival 2007), based on a new text of his, and All is Vanity, a monologue by Viviane de Muynck, adapted from Claire Goll's book of the same title. The Salzburger Festspiele invited Jan Lauwers to create a new production for the Summer of 2008, The Deer House, which was, after Isabella's Room and The Lobstershop, the third and final part of his trilogy on humanity Sad Face | Happy Face.

Since 2009 Needcompany have been artists in residence at the Burgtheater in Vienna. Lauwers' The Art of Entertainment premiered here in 2011. The most recent text Lauwers wrote for Needcompany is Marketplace 76, which was first performed at the Ruhr Triennial 2012.

This performance was made possible with support by