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The 2021 Lion Awards for Theatre
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The 2021 Lion Awards for Theatre

The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement goes to Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski. The Silver Lion goes to English poet, author and performer Kae Tempest.

The Awards

The Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski, an emblematic figure in post-Communist theatre who has left his mark in international theatre with the memorable visions he has created, is the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre 2021.
The Silver Lion has been awarded to Kae Tempest, English poet, author of plays and narrative, rapper and performer of powerful readings to full houses.

The Board of Directors of La Biennale di Venezia approved the recommendations submitted by ricci/forte (Gianni Forte and Stefano Ricci), the Directors of the Theatre Department.

The awards ceremony will take place during the 49th International Theatre Festival:
Krzysztof Warlikowski Saturday 3 July, Ca’ Giustinian at 12 noon; followed by a conversation with Krzysztof Warlikowski;
Kae Tempest Friday 9 July, Ca’ Giustinian at 2 pm; followed by a conversation with Kae Tempest.

Krzysztof Warlikowski

“For over twenty years, Krzysztof Warlikowski – the motivation for the award reads – has been the advocate for a profound renewal of the European language of theatre. Relying on references from cinema and an original use of video, inventing new forms of theatre that aim to re-establish the bond between the play and the audience, Warlikowski encourages the latter to rip away the paper backdrop of their lives and to discover what is really hidden underneath”.

Invited to present his theatre productions at the major festivals around the globe, from Europe to the Americas, and to direct lyric operas in the most important opera houses, from Paris to London and Salzburg, Krzysztof Warlikowski is “a free artist – write ricci/forte – who opens poetic breaches to cast a ray of raw light on the other side of the coin; who breaks through the crust of things to touch consciences; who descends into the viscera of pain and ironically questions the ambiguities of both History with a capital “h” and those of our individual existence, offering us a vision of society threatened by radical change and increasingly under siege by a tentacular ruling class of ravenous predators, highlighting the violence in social and family relations and the urgent need that the emotion of a pure and simple desire to love can give us”.

Kae Tempest

Kae Tempest are “the most powerful and innovative poetic voice to come out of Spoken Word Poetry in recent years, reads the motivation, capable of rising through the ranks of English publishing and reaping consensus beyond the national borders for the ardent courage demonstrated in dissecting and describing with a lucid gaze the anguish, solitude, fear and insecurities of life, the most invisible yet tangible life partners of our time – between identity, hypocrisy and marginality, which they also experienced personally – and lashing out at the dominating and oppressive morals of our day”.

Kae Tempest, who won a nomination for the Brit Awards 2018 and the acknowledgments named after Ted Hughes and T.S. Eliot, have been awarded the Silver Lion for Theatre 2021 – write ricci/forte – “for their luminous audacity in placing reflective exploding timebombs and for continuing to experiment with a genre such as poetry defined as niche, mixing the lofty with the low, anger with the tenderness of affection – between caustic verses and rhymes reminiscent of Shakespeare with a strong social thrust, classical myths and hip-hop hybridizations – speaking from the heart to an increasingly vast audience, penetrating deep into your bones, forcing you to look inwards and into the mirror of your painful intimacy”.

The Book of Traps & Lessons is the most recent of Kae Tempest’s legendary readings, and will premiere in Italy at the 49th International Theatre Festival.

The Lions of previous editions

In the past the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre has been awarded to Ferruccio Soleri (2006), Ariane Mnouschkine (2007), Roger Assaf (2008), Irene Papas (2009), Thomas Ostermeier (2011), Luca Ronconi (2012), Romeo Castellucci (2013), Jan Lauwers (2014), Christoph Marthaler (2015), Declan Donnellan (2016), Katrin Brack (2017), Antonio Rezza and Flavia Mastrella (2018), Jens Hillje (2019), Franco Visioli (2020).

The Silver Lion, dedicated to promising young artists in the theatre, or to the institutions that have distinguished themselves for cultivating new talents, has been awarded to Rimini Protokoll (2011), Angélica Liddell (2013), Fabrice Murgia (2014), Agrupación Señor Serrano (2015), Babilonia Teatri (2016), Maja Kleczewska (2017), Anagoor (2018), Jetse Batelaan (2019), Alessio Maria Romano (2020).

Biographical notes

Krzysztof Warlikowski (Szczecin - Poland 1962) directed his first plays in 1989, at the age of 27, after completing his studies in philosophy and history in Krakow, and in the French language and Greek theatre at the Sorbonne in Paris.

He has created a new way of staging Shakespeare. His body of work contains subversive interpretations of Greek tragedies, but he is also well known for his staging of modern authors. His 2002 production of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed at the Festival d’Avignon and the Festival de Théâtre des Amériques in Montreal received wide acclaim. It was a turning point for Warlikowski’s international presence. Since 2008 he has been the Artistic Director of the International Cultural Centre Nowy Teatr in Warsaw, where he has so far directed six shows based on multilayers text adaptation: (A)pollonia (2009), The End (2010), African Tales by Shakespeare (2011), Kabaret warszawski(2013), The French (2015), We Are Leaving (2018). All the performances were coproduced with the most prestigious European theatres, including Théâtre National de Chaillot and Odéon Théâtre de l’Europe in Paris, Festival d’Avignon, Comédie de Cermont-Ferrand, Greek Festival in Athens, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie de Bruxelles, Théâtre de Liège, Ruhrtriennale. He directed two performances at the Odéon Théâtre de l’Europe in Paris: Streetcar (2011) and Phaedra(s) (2016) with Isabelle Huppert in the leading role.

Warlikowski’s theatre productions were presented at the most important festivals: Festival d’Avignon, Festival de Otoño in Madrid, Edinburgh International Festival, Wiener Festwochen, Next Wave Festival BAM in New York, Athens Festival, International Theatre Festival Santiago a Mil in Chile, International Theatre Festival PoNTI in Porto, Seoul Performing Arts Festival in South Korea, Tianjin Canyu International Theatre Festival in China, Festival BITEF in Belgrade.

A separate field of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s work involves opera. Warlikowski is directing in the greatest European opera houses, including La Monnaie in Brussels, the Paris National Opera, Teatro Real in Madrid, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Royal Opera House in London, Festival d’Aix en Provence, Rurhtriennale and Salzburg Festival. In his attempt at the “retheatricalisation” of opera, he is perceived as one of the revolutionary opera directors. He has staged among others: Iphigenia in Tauris, The Makropulos Affair, Parsifal, The Woman without a Shadow, Medea, Lulu, Don Giovanni, Bluebeard’s Castle/La voix humaine, The Triumph of Time and Truth and recently The Stigmatized, From the House of the Dead, The Bassarids, Lady Macbeth de Mstensk, Salomé, Contes d’Hoffmann, Electra.

Krzysztof Warlikowski is a winner of numerous awards, including the Award of the French Theatre Critics’ Union in 2003 for the production of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed, judged to be the best foreign language production to be presented in France. In 2008 French critics also awarded Angels in America. In 2006 he received the prestigious Meyerhold Award in Moscow, and in April 2008, the X Europe Prize in Thessaloniki, Greece. In May 2008 New York’s Village Voice gave Krzysztof Warlikowski its Obie Award for the direction of Krum by Hanoch Levin, presented at BAM’s 25th Next Wave Festival. He was awarded the “Golden Mask” prize for the best foreign performance shown in Russia in 2011 for (A)pollonia.


Kae Tempest, the pseudonym of Kate Esther Calvert (Westminster, 1985), came out as non-binary in 2020, publicly announcing their new name - Kae (pronounced like the letter K) Tempest - and their preference for the use of the plural and non-binary (in English) pronoun “they”. Since then, Tempest’s biographies have adapted to this request.

The poetry collection Brand New Ancients won the Ted Hughes Award 2012, one of England’s most prestigious prizes for poetry, while in 2014 the Poetry Book Society (founded by T.S. Eliot) added Kae Tempest’s name to the list of Next Generation Poets it issues every ten years, for the poetry collection Hold Your Own. The albums Everybody Down (2014) and Let Them Eat Chaos (2017) were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. The latter was accompanied by the eponymous collection of poems, which was nominated in turn for the Costa Book of the Year in the “Poetry” category. Their third album, The Book of Traps and Lessons was released in 2019 and was nominated for the Ivor Novello Award. The most recent collection of poetry is titled Running Upon the Wires. Their debut novel The Bricks That Built the Houses won the Books Are My Bag Readers award for Breakthrough Author.

The plays commissioned to Kae Tempest include: Wasted, Hopelessly Devoted and Paradise, a rewriting of Sophocles’ Philoctetes which was to be performed at the National Theatre last year, but was postponed because of the pandemic, and published by Picador.

In October 2020 Faber published the first non-fiction text authored by Kae Tempest, On Connection. In Italy Kae Tempest’s books are published by Edizioni e/o.