New Gdansk theater shows Poland's contemporary links with Shakespeare

Mon Sep 22, 2014 10:59am EDT
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By Roberta Cucchiaro and Pawel Lapinski

GDANSK Poland (Reuters) - A new Elizabethan-style theater opened in Gdansk last week on the site of a building that showed Shakespeare's plays during his lifetime in the Baltic Sea city.

Celebrating its ties with the English playwright, the Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre hosted actors on its opening night from Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London, who are putting on "Hamlet" there this week.

Revolving platforms and 56 lifts allow the theater to change from an Elizabethan stage, to a box-set or into a central theater-in-the-round, and its 90-tonne roof can open or shut in three minutes. Shows are viewed from a three-storey gallery.

The theater, built with help of EU funds, stands where the Fencing School - modeled on London's Fortune Playhouse - stood more than 400 years ago and hosted English troupes, performing Shakespeare's plays just a few years after the London premieres.

Viewed by a capacity, 680-strong audience inside the theater, and relayed via a video screen to thousands more outside, the opening show on Friday was a performance of theatrical fencing by The Royal Drama School RESAD from Madrid and a display by Poland's MIRA-ART Acrobats.

“A memorable day,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told the audience, thanking the theater's Managing Director Jerzy Limon for his “huge faith and determination” in giving life to “this theater impressing us all with its appearance, functionality, architecture and modernity”.

In the heart of Gdansk's Old City, meticulously rebuilt after widespread bomb damage during World War Two, the theater's modern exterior nevertheless evokes the Gothic architecture of Gdansk’s many historic brick-built churches.

Italian architect Renato Rizzi’s choice of Belgian black bricks to cover the whole exterior, is in stark contrast to the galleried wooden auditorium and stone-clad foyer.   Continued...

A general view shows the interior of the Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre September 17, 2014. REUTERS/Rafal Malko/Agencja Gazeta