What does Shakespeare have to do with Gdansk? Quite a lot, for the plays of the Bard of Avon were staged in the city already in his lifetime. The Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre is built on the site of the former Fencing School–the first public theater in the 17th-century Poland–and believed to be one of the most extraordinary theatres in the world inspired by the Elizabethan theatre.
Designed by Renato Rizzi, the building of the Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre–considered one of the greatest architecture accomplishments of the past few years–is covered in 1 200 000 charcoal bricks and brick paving stones, with its wooden interior immediately taking the audience back to Shakespeare’s times. It’s the only theater in Poland where plays are performed on the Elizabethan stage and it can house up to one thousand visitors depending on the event format and the type of the stage being used. The building makes use of modern architecture solutions–the role of the foyer is played by both the main hall and the suspended wooden hall together with corridors leading to galleries. When the play is performed on the classic Italian stage, it is most comfortable to watch it from the ground floor, sitting in leather seats, or from galleries right in front of the stage. When the Elizabethan stage is in use, there are no ground floor seats and the audience is watching the play from the galleries, enjoying a wonderful view. A retractable roof is an icing on the cake. Only three minutes suffice for the audience to be watching the play under the clear blue sky.
If you want to go back to the Elizabethan era, you need a guided tour (offered every day; advance bookings recommended). You can also go and see a play (we truly recommend it!), e.g. during the famous Shakespeare Festival, or attend one of the very many cutural events, workshops, and concerts.
The Theatre is also a founder of Teatr w Oknie (TwO Windows Theatre, since 2006 under the auspices of the Theatrum Gedanense Foundation)–the first of its kind studio theater in the world. It is located in the very center of the Gdansk Old Town (Dluga 50/51), with its two large windows overlooking the city’s main pedestrian street. Depending on the need, the windows become a natural part of the stage, an element of the scenery, or an acting tool, making it possible to stage performances both inside and outside the theater, be it on a purpose-built stage or the street.
Current program is available here: teatrszekspirowski.pl
Photos: Matteo Piazza (1,2,3-4,6-7), Krzysztof Mystkowski (5), Dawid Linkowski (8)