“There are few cities in whole of Europe, that can be proud of such close connections with Shakespeare as Gdańsk can. The tradition of staging Shakespeare’s works is revived thanks to the Shakespeare Festival and to the idea of establishing the Shakespearean Theatre in Gdańsk.” - Kenneth Branagh
In Gdansk’s golden era when it truly was one of the continent’s great trading cities, it is widely recognised that it was visited by itinerant English troupes of actors. It appears they regularly played during the summer in Gdansk from about 1600 onwards and at a theatre called the Fencing School from 1611, which some local experts claim may have been modelled on the Fortune playhouse in London.
The Fencing School, located in what was effectively the West End of Gdansk was demolished and replaced by the Komedienhaus in 1740 where performances were given until the start of the 19th century. Gdansk is now seeing a revival of this tradition with the 2014 opening of the quite remarkable Shakespearean Theatre. The project was finally realised after many years of campaigning by amongst others Prof. Jerzy Limon who succeeded in raising the finance and support of local and national governments and even Britain’s Prince Charles.
The PLN 94mln construction was designed by Prof. Renato Rizzi of Venice and includes the ability to present performances using different types of staging as well as a roof that can be opened to allow performances in daylight. The audience watches the performance either from seating in front of the stage or on cushioned benches around the sides designed to look like the viewing areas in an Elizabethan theatre.
The theatre organises stage performances in many languages as well as playing host to exhibitions, workshops, and serves as an educational centre. Each year the theatre organises the EFFE award winning Shakespeare Festival while there are usually week-long festivals presenting culture of European countries and the world. These events encompass performing and visual arts, dance, music, films and cuisine. The series initiated in 2014 with the British Week, was followed by Georgian, Romanian, German, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Israeli and Estonian Weeks.. Three summer plays designed for the Elizabethan stage have also been produced in cooperation with local theatres: ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ in 2015, ‘Kiss Me, Kate’ in 2016 and ‘Shakespeare in Love’ in 2017. Also in 2017, the theatre held a special performance for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their visit to Gdansk.
Moreover, there are usually a week-long festivals presenting culture of European countries and the world. These events encompass performing and visual arts, dance, music, films and cuisine. The series initiated in 2014 with the British Week, was followed by Georgian, Romanian, German, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Israeli and Estonian Weeks.
Even if you do not have tickets to a performance it’s worth taking a look at the building by taking an English language tour which will both show you the impressive building and explain its 17th century origins. Tours begin in the main hall but times vary so check their website