Michael Laub

Michael Laub

Michael Laub (born Belgium, 1953) is a renowned avant-garde stage director and contemporary dance choreographer. His work has been shown around the world, notably at the Venice Biennale of 1984, the Universal Exposition Seville Expo '92, and the Festival d'Avignon of 2005. He has often been described as a minimalist and "one of the founding fathers of anti-illusionist theater".[1]



Laub's career in the arts began in the mid-1970s when based in Stockholm, founding and co-directing Maniac Productions with Edmundo Za. Their work was referred to as innovative; mixing Performance art and Video installation. Genevieve van Cauwenberge observed that the performances "are in fact polyvalent and difficult to classify. They make use of everything at once, combining their specific language, stage direction, plastic arts (Minimal Art), musical composition (repetitive sampling) body language (Body Art), Happening (intervention of hazard) and of course the electronic video image."[2]

With the founding of Remote Control Productions in 1981, Michael Laub proceeded to take his work somewhat closer to theater. Influenced by various forms, ranging from soap operas to classic literature and dance, his output as director of Remote Control Productions currently stands at over twenty plays. In what is perhaps something of an oversimplification of his extensive body of work, one can divide the material by three thematic approaches; the musical (Rough, Solo, Daniel and the Dancers, Total Masala Slammer); classic literature (Frank Wedekind's Lulu, Frankula, The Hans Christian Andersen Project); and portrait work (Portraits 360 Seconds, Out of Sorts, Alone/Gregoire, and The Biography Remix with Marina Abramović). One constant, since Rewind Song in 1989, has been the collaboration between Remote Control Productions and musician Larry Steinbachek, formerly of the band Bronski Beat.

Many theater critics have noted the conventions-challenging nature of Laub's work. When reviewing Daniel and the Dancers one writer commented that "the theatrical illusion has been destroyed, and what is happening on stage is simply a new reality."[3] Deconstructing theater, finding novel ways in which to reconfigure the elements of a performance, is what fascinates and distinguishes this artist. A review pertaining to the same piece in the Danish newspaper Politiken attributes a certain violence to this theatrical approach. "This is masterful comedy," writes Monna Dithmer, "-served by the Laub diva Charlotte Engelkes-and a masterclass in the Laub technique, the aim of which is to smash the whole theatre process into bits and pieces and display them in all their naked glory."[4]

It was only in the mid nineties, and in particular with the success of the play Rough, that Michael Laub/Remote Control Productions garnered international recognition. As a result the ensuing works became more elaborate in scope and far-reaching in audience. An example of this was Laub's play Total Masala Slammer/Heartbreak No. 5 (2001), in which six months of research in India brought his fascination with Bollywood, Kathak dance and music into a synthesis with Goethe and Western contemporary live art forms. The H.C. Andersen Project (2003) was another ambitious project that used a multitude of biographical and literary interpretations in exploring Laub’s take on the famous Danish subject. The Austrian daily Der Standard lauded the resulting mash-up, stating the play’s "masterful blend of condensed fairytales, biographical notes, and exquisitely transfigured personae from Andersen’s universe is achieved through clarity of dramatic structure, the lightness of the 'show' form, the outstanding dancers and performers, and the subtle music of Larry Steinbachek".[5]

Between the large-scale productions of Total Masala Slammer and The H.C. Andersen Project, Laub directed Portraits 360 Sek at Hamburg's Deutsches Schauspielhaus in 2002. This was an undertaking which would spur his long-standing fascination with the applications of portraiture in theater to evolve. Having experienced success with solo portraits (Solo with Charlotte Engelkes, and Out of Sorts with Richard Crane), Laub began, with Portraits 360 Sek to extend the idea to a collective performance, and in time, a serialized concept.

For the Laub portrait of the performance artist Marina Abramović in The Biography Remix (2004-’05), content called for a multi-layered format; “One moment you are watching the young Abramović on video, the next Abramović played by one of her young students, then Abramović in the flesh”,[6] but the object remained grounded in a very direct approach. While one critic noted that “above all one remembers authentic emotion, which culminated in the final glimpse of a smile from the artist. It is beautiful, very beautiful; terribly intimate; and perfectly universal.”[7] Libération concluded that "The Remix is generally as disturbing as it is moving".[8] A quality one would anticipate, even aspire to, in a performance chronicling the life and work of an artist who has spent decades pushing the boundaries of physical and emotional endurance.

360 Sek and the ensuing Portrait Series projects (there have been five to date) eschew almost all theatrics and strip the performer’s role down to oftentimes uncomfortably intimate biographical details. “By linking the unstructured with the well-calculated, the director subtly conveys to the audience some idea of those elements of which theatre is composed: exuberance and effort, yearning and application, happiness and fear. Yet because the individual portraits are so direct, as an exercise in vanity this self-portraiture remains modest. The quietly non-intentional gets the same six short minutes as the noisily exhibitionist, and that is why, in the final resort, the theatre emerges victorious as a powerhouse of the imagination as opposed to a factory of personalities.”[9] The focus is on realism and authenticity. This is made all the more evident with Laub often favoring non-professionals for these projects, as their untrained stage personae are all the more vulnerable and raw.

The Portrait Series have proven popular, in part due to the concept’s adaptability. From a theoretical point of view, The Portrait Series is an endeavor wherein he tests theater’s global vocabulary. The idea being that virtually any entity comprising interesting characters can be formatted by Laub for a Portrait Series show. The latest such venue to have solicited a Portrait Series is Vienna’s Burgtheater.

He opened 2010 with the highly personal, original composition Death, Dance and some Talk in Berlin (February), followed by Portrait Series Istanbul (April–May), Portrait Series Rotterdam (September), and working on the Burgporträts at the Burgtheater, Vienna.

In addition to his stage-work, Laub has held several guest professorships (at the University of Glessen, the Freie Universität Berlin, the Norwegian Theatre Academy), and is now taking up residency at HfG Karlsruhe in 2011.


Maniac Productions

  • 1975
    Maniac Productions, Narren Teater, Stockholm
  • 1976
    Enfantillage, Fylkingen Center for Intermedia, Stockholm
    Paralysed Infancy in Repetitive Structure, De Appel, Amsterdam

Avant Tehran, De Appel, Amsterdam

  • 1977
    Mouse in Repetitive Structure, Avant Tehran Mickery Theatre, Amsterdam
    Lily is going to have a baby, Fylkingen Center for Intermedia, Stockholm
    Infection/Love Tape I, Video Festival, Fylkingen, Stockholm
  • 1978
    Tragico Intervallo, Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf
    Tragico Intervallo II, Arteferia Post Avant-Garde Theater Festival, Bologna
    Maniac Productions II, Mickery, Amsterdam
    I closed the window and I went out for dinner, Folkwang Museum, Essen/Galerie Neu, Aachen
    Hotel Life (a 12-hour live video exhibition in 12 hotel rooms), Museumzicht Hotel, Amsterdam
    Untitled Video Performance, International Performance Festival, Beursschouwburg, Brussels
  • 1979
    Dinner Somewhere and then Back to my room RTBF Television http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/RTBF (French), Kolnischer Kunstverein, Cologne/Theatre Populaire de Wallonie, Lieg
    Chap Tapes I, Internationaal Cultureel Centrum, Antwerp
  • 1980
    Chap Tapes II, Mickery, Amsterdam

Remote Control Productions

  • 1981
    Snapping, Computing and Performing
    Kulturhuset, Stockholm
  • 1982
    White Out
    Moderna Museet, Stockholm
  • 1984
    Return of Sensation
    XXXII Biennale di Venezia [1]
    Kulturhuset, Stockholm
    International Theatre Festival, Copenhagen, June 1985
  • 1987
    Kulturhuset, Stockholm
  • 1989
    Rewind Song
    Moderna Museet, Stockholm, February
    6th Bergen International Theatre Festival, Norway
  • 1991
    Fast Forward/ Bad Air und so...
    Dansens Hus, Stockholm, February
    Theater am Turm, Frankfurt, February
    Bergen International Theatre, April
    Touch Time Festival, Mickery, Amsterdam, May
    Kaaitheater, Brussels, June
    Wiener Festwochen, Vienna, June
  • 1992
    Jack's Travelogue/La Prison des Femmes
    Black Box Theatre, Oslo, May
    Teatro Central, Seville Expo '92, June
    Dansens Hus, Stockholm, August
    Theater am Turm, Frankfurt, October
    Kaaitheater/Theatre 140,[10] Brussels, November
  • 1994
    Kulturhuset, Stockholm, January
    Teatergarasjen, Bergen, January
    Springdance, Utrecht, April
    Theater am Turm, Frankfurt, April
    Szene, Salzburg, July
    Internationales Sommer Theater Festival, Hamburg, July
    Theatre 140/ Charleroi Danse, Brussels, November
    Nordisk Scenekunst Festival, Arhus, April
    Europaisches Festival Schlossfestspiele, Schwerin, June
    Ludwigsburg Schlossfestspiele, July
    Hebbel Theater (German), Berlin, August
  • 1994-'96
    Daniel and the Dancers
    Frascati, Amsterdam, October, 1994
    Monty, Antwerpen, January, 1995
    Lantaren, Rotterdam, January, 1995
    Schouwburg, Tilburg, January, 1995
    Dansens Hus, Stockholm, February, 1995
    Theater am Turm, Frankfurt, February, 1996
    Hebbel Theater (German), Berlin, March 1996
    Kanon Hallen, Copenhagen, March 1996
  • 1995-'96
    Solo with Charlotte Engelkes
    Spielart, Munich, October 1995
    Theater am Turm, Frankfurt, February 1996
    Hebbel Theater (German), Berlin, May 1996
    Szene, Salzburg, July 1996
    Monty, Antwerp, October 1996
    Schouwburg, Tilburg, October 1996
    Kulturhuset Arhus, November 1996
  • 1997-'98
    Planet Lulu
    Kulturhus Arhus, March 1997
    Springdance, Utrecht, April 1997
    Theater am Turm, Frankfurt, May 1997
    Hebbel Theater (German), Berlin, May 1997
    Szene, Salzburg, July 1997
    Zürcher Theater Spektakel, Zurich, September 1997
    Kampnagel, Hamburg, September 1997
    Grand Theater, Groningen, September 1997
    De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam, October 1997
    Schouwburg, Tilburg, October 1997
    Pusterviksteatern, Gotheborg, October 1998
    Dansens Hus, Stockholm, October 1998
  • 1998-'99
    Grand Theatre, Groningen, August 1998
    TANZtheaterInternational, Hanover, September 1998
    Frascati, Amsterdam, September 1998
    Schouwburg, Tilburg, February 1999
    Hebbel Theater (German), February/March 1999
    Szene, Salzburg, July 1999
  • 1999-2000
    Out of Sorts
    De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam, April 1999
    Grand Theatre, Groningen, April 1999
    Szene, Salzburg, July 1999
    Expo, Hanover, September 1999
    Schouwburg, Tilburg, October 1999
    Mousonturm, Frankfurt, February 2000
  • 2000-'03
    Pigg in Hell
    Tanz im August, Berlin, 2000
    Podewil, Berlin, 2001
    Mousonturm, Frankfurt, 2001
    off limits Festival, Dortmund, 2001
    Rotterdamse Schouwburg, 2001
    euro-scene, Leipzig, 2001
    Tramway, Glasgow, 2002
    Impulstanz, Vienna, 2002
    Tanzwerkstatt, Munich, 2002
    Zuercher Theaterspektakel, 2002
    Four Days in Motion, 6th International Theater Festival, Prague, 2002
    cutting edge, Staatstheater Darmstadt, 2003
  • 2001-'02
    Total Masala Slammer/Heartbreak No. 5
    Tanz im August, Hebbel-Theater, Berlin, 2001
    Archa Theater, Prague, 2001
    Zuercher Theater Spektakel, 2001
    Rotterdamse Schouwburg, 2001
    Szene, Salzburg, 2002
    Impulstanz, Vienna, 2002
    Melbourne Festival, 2002
  • 2003
    The H.C. Andersen Project- Tales and Costumes
    Zeurcher Theater Spektakel,2003
    Hebbel Theater (German), Berlin, 2003
    Rotterdamse Schouwburg, 2003
    Exodus Festival, Cankargev Dom, Ljubljana, 2004
    Dance, Munich, 2004
    Mousonturm, Frankfurt, 2005
    Rencontre Choreographique de Seine St. Denis, 2005
  • 2004
    Zuercher Theater Spektakel, Zurich
  • 2004-'09
    Portrait Series: Alone/Gregoire
    Deutsches Schauspielhaus(German) Hamburg, 2004
    De Internationale Keuze van de Rotterdamse Schouwburg, Rotterdam, 2004
    Tanz im August, Internationales Tanzfest Berlin, 2005
    Tanzquartier, Vienna, 2005
    Mousonturm, Frankfurt, 2006
    Rencontre Choreographique de Seine St. Denis, 2006
    Festival d'Otono, Madrid, 2007
    Sommer Szene, Salzburg, July 8–9, 2009
  • 2007–present
    Portrait Series Berlin. Professional and Non-Professional Dancers/Marching Series (work in progress)
    Tanz im August, Internationales Tanzfest Berlin, 2007
    Zuercher Theater Spektakel, 2007
    Rotterdamse Schouwburg, 2007
  • 2008
    Bruce and More
    Heli Meklin & Michael Laub
    Moving in November Festival, Kiasma Museum, Helsinki, November
  • 2010
    Death, Dance and Some Talk
    Sophiensaele, Berlin, February 23–27

  • Portrait Series Istanbul: Aspiring Actresses, and Actresses.
    Garajistanbul, April 28–30, May 6–8
    Kulturhauptstadt Europas RUHR.Favoriten, Essen, November 26–28

  • Portrait Series Rotterdam
    Lantern/Venster (Schouwburg Internationale Keuze Festival), September 15–19
  • 2011
    Portrait Series/Burgportäts
    Burgtheater, Vienna, Austria.


  1. ^ Gerald Seigmund, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, 24.2.1996
  2. ^ Michael Laub/Remote Control Productions, Claudine Profitlich, Imbescheidt KG, Frankfurt am Main, 2000
  3. ^ Marten Spangberg, Dagens Nyheter, 7.2.1995
  4. ^ Monna Dithmer, Politiken, 09.03.1996
  5. ^ Helmut Ploebst, Der Standard, 25.08.2003
  6. ^ John Hooper, The Guardian, 29.09.2004
  7. ^ Jean-Marie Wynants, Le Soir, 13.07.2005
  8. ^ Antoine de Baecque, Libération, 13/07/2005
  9. ^ Evelyn Finger, Die Zeit, 08.05.2002
  10. ^ Theatre 140 on Wikipedia French: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Théâtre_140

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