Gdańsk will once again become a stage for European theatre performers. Over 340 artists from six countries, numerous seminars and workshops, directed also to the youth from small towns – this is how ‘Discovering Theatrelands’ promises. It is a new initiative of Theatrum Gedanense Foundation and its partners from European Shakespeare Festivals Network.
The eight-month project was founded with support of the Culture Programme 2007–2013. It will enable presenting the best shows inspired by the works of William Shakespeare to the European audience. Nine plays by theatre groups from six European countries – Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Romania, Hungary and Great Britain – will be staged in the cities taking part in the initiative. One cannot imagine a better development of the idea of touring troupes of actors, which were so characteristic of Shakespeare’s times.
The interaction between the actors and the audience was a vital feature of Elizabethan theatre as well, so there were no doubts about the choice of the patron of the project. Only such a universal and widely known author as William Shakespeare can constitute the language for intercultural communication. Since his plays are widely known, it will be easier for the audience to notice the differences between interpretations shaped by various backgrounds and national traditions. ‘Discovering Theatrelands’ is also a good opportunity to exchange experience. The directors and actors will be able to share their ideas for modern stage productions of Shakespeare’s works, and the impresarios to comment on methods of organizing cultural events.
A major event of this year’s edition will surely be the presentation of the work by the outstanding Flemish director Luk Perceval. After staging the adaptations Schlachten, Macbeth, and Othello, which caused much sensation, this experienced Shakespearean director is now presenting his own evocation of Hamlet prepared in Thalia Theatre in Hamburg. The production is intriguing and full of emotions. The two actors playing Hamlet are accompanied by a pianist playing and singing live. Here, the Danish prince traumatized by the death of his father and his mother’s hasty marriage is a symbol of condition humaine, a person torn between reason and emotions, truth and lies, who is left with no answers to the basic questions about his own existence. Perceval discerns the relevance of the text in its mythical and archaic bases.
Another artist of high calibre and a very talented interpreter of Shakespeare, who will be present at the Festival, is Silviu Purcărete. Until now, three of his productions were staged in the Tricity: Titus Andronicus, Twelfth Night, and Measure for Measure, and all of them were enthusiastically received. This time the imaginative Romanian artist and the team of National Theatre in Craiova will present The Tempest, which was premiered in April 2012. The production and presentation of the play during the Festival in Gdansk is carried out together with the Romanian Institute of Culture and the members of European Shakespeare Festivals Network.
Special attention should also be devoted to the community play, which engages the residents of the city it takes place in. The show based on Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Play will be created in cooperation with the Czech PaS de Theatre and the British group Parrabbola, which the residents of Gdańsk remember from the play Pericles that was staged in Dolne Miasto two years ago.
The title of the project – ‘Discovering Theatrelands’ – should be understood quite literally for educational actions, in which theoreticians and organizers of cultural life will take part, will be just as important as the plays. They will introduce even laypersons to the uneasy language of the modern theatre.
Above all, Summer Shakespeare Academy will offer a series of lectures, meetings with the artists, and workshops of various kinds. Happenings, improvisations and the parade ending the Festival will serve as a setting to these actions. What is more, there will be seminar on topics related to art as a means of communication and theatrical pedagogy for students and university teachers. High standard of discussion will be guaranteed by international experts – culture researchers, directors and managers of Shakespearean cultural institutions. Educational actions as well as theatrical presentations will take place in the Pomerania province.
Everyone will find something for themselves in ‘Discovering Theatrelands’. Theatre enthusiasts will have a chance to admire renowned foreign productions, someone else – their neighbour or nephew playing a bit part. The British will find that Polish theater has rich traditions and numerous achievements, Poles – that Shakespeare is more familiar to them than they thought. For we are all surrounded by the same European culture shaped by, among others, Shakespeare’s works. International cooperation on the organization of such artistic initiatives may only strengthen these bonds.