The latest content and news from the Barbican. Book tickets at
The latest content and news from the Barbican. Book tickets at

Opening the Barbican Box

What stories lie within a battered old suitcase? Who would carry a brain, a timepiece, a nightgown on their journey? Where could they be going?

These are questions twenty participating schools across Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Islington found themselves asking when a strange delivery of suitcases arrived earlier this year.

Part of the Barbican/Guildhall Creative Learning programme, the Barbican Box is an annual initiative helping to ignite and support theatre making in schools and youth groups around London. Each year, we commission a theatre artist or company to design – and pack – a box with ideas, inspirations and provocations to spark imagination in young theatremakers and performers. This year, renowned masters of storytelling Complicite accepted the challenge.


Inspired by our recent Wonder: Art & Science on the Brain season with Wellcome Trust, Complicite’s Barbican Box took the form of five suitcases belonging to mystery neuroscientists. But what lay inside, what did it all mean and how do you put it all on stage? That was for the students to decide…

We spoke to the Barbican and Guildhall Creative Learning team, Complicite’s Artist Director Simon McBurney and the students themselves as they open the Barbican Box and let their imaginations run wild.

‘There is no set way of turning this suitcase into a piece of theatre. It’s up to you. But the most important thing is that you play…’ Simon McBurney

Find out more about the Barbican Box.

Many thanks to the project’s supporters: Linklaters LLP, the City Bridge Trust, and the Wellcome Trust.