Summing up the 16th Shakespeare Festival

The Gdańsk Shakespeare Festival took place between 27th July and 5th August 2012. The activities presented within the “Discovering Theatrelands” project included the presentation of “The Tempest” by Silviu Purcarete form Craiova National Theatre (Romania) and “Hamlet” by Luk Perceval of Thalia Theatre, Germany. There were also co-productions of a community play “The Winter’s Tale” prepared by Parrabbola (UK) together with Ostrava Shakespeare Festival (CZ) and Gdańsk Shakespeare Festival and also a Polish-Danish co-productions of “Hamlet” by Hamletscenen/Walny-Theatre. Additionally there was a creative Summer Shakespeare Academy developed with Q&A sessions, workshops and lectures and a “Theatre in Education” art programme in the region. Moreover an alternative festival scene called ShakespeareOFF, with performances, improvisations, dance theatre, happenings, films, concerts, etc. was a part of the project’s activities.

The highlight of this year’s Festival was a performance by a renowned Flemish creator, Luk Perceval – “Hamlet” by Thalia Theatre in Hamburg. Luk Perceval is an experienced Shakespearean director who, after widely-acquainted stagings such as “Schlachten”, “Macbeth”, and “Othello”, presented his own take on “Hamlet”. Traumatised by the death of his father and his mother’s overhasty marriage, prince Hamlet, played by two actors, becomes the epitome of ‘condition humaine’: a man torn between reason and feeling, truth and lies, deprived of answers to the basic questions about his own existence. Perceval seeks the source of the play’s contemporary appeal in its mythical and archaic roots. It was an intriguing and emotional staging in which the two Hamlets were accompanied by a live song and piano performance.

Hamlet, Thalia Theater, Germany

Silviu Purcarete, an exceptional Romanian director permanently residing in France, was another renowned figure presented during this year’s Festival. Three of his Shakespearean stagings: “Titus Andronicus”, “Twelfth Night”, and “Measure for Measure”, were presented in previous editions of the Festival, all receiving an enthusiastic response. This year, the Romanian director, together with Craiova National Theatre, created a new version of “The Tempest”. The staging premiered in April 2012 and presented in Gdańsk. Involved in the production and presentation of the play during the Festival were the Romanian Cultural Institute and members of the European Shakespeare Festivals Network.

The Tempest, The National Theatre Craiova, Romania

Another significant staging presented during the Festival was the work of avant-garde Russian director, Konstantin Bogomolov – a play under the controversial title “Lear. A Comedy”, produced by Prijut Komedianta Theatre in Saint Petersburg. Konstantin Bogomolov is one of the most electrifying contemporary cinematic and theatrical directors in Russia. His works are often provocative, break conventions and aim to destroy the traditional approach to staging plays and to theatre as such. His “Lear. A Comedy” is no exception. The play was reduced and the genre shifted from tragedy to comedy. Starring in the title role is a brilliant tragicomical actress Rosa Khairulin, associated with Moscow’s Studio Tabakowa Theatre.

Lear. A comedy, Teatr Prijut Komedianta, Russia

Appearing for the first time at the Festival were the Macedonians, with “Hamlet” directed by Dejan Projkowski – theatrical director, artistic director of Drama Theatre Skopje, member of the board of directors of Interact Theatre and Festivals Network. His play is a fresh, modern attempt at reading Shakespeare’s works through the prism of modern Balkan history. In Great Britain the performance received very good reviews and was praised for the actors’ portrayals of the characters, most importantly Dejan Lilic’s Hamlet.

Hamlet, Drama Thetre Skopje, Macedonia

Accompanying the main events wre meetings with creators, moderated by theatrologists from the University of Gdańsk and other academic venues, as well as various educational activities organised by Shakespeare Summer Academy and directed chiefly at young people from Tricity and the whole of Pomeranian Voivodeship. For the duration of the event, a widely popular Festival newspaper, ‘Shakespeare Daily’, presented reviews and comments on current Festival happenings, allowing young journalists – students of Polish Philology and Theatre Studies – gain their first vocational experience. Yet another side event was the artistic and educational initiative “Talent Factory in Dolne Miasto”, aimed at the inhabitants of Gdańsk’s neglected district, Dolne Miasto.
The main goal of the Festival was to reach a wide audience and awaken their interest in theatre in its variety of forms. The ShakespeareOFF scene presented an alternative to main events, hosting non-Shakespearian productions, concerts, and happenings.

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