Shakespeare’s Globe is among the British companies set to perform at a new £18 million modern recreation of an Elizabethan playhouse in Poland, which will be the country’s first dedicated theatre space to open in almost 40 years.
The Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre will launch with a British week on September 20 that includes productions from the Globe and Gecko Theatre company. It is hoped the venue will become a regular home for touring theatre productions from around Europe, including those in the UK.
The £18 million theatre’s creation was inspired by a playhouse built in Gdansk in the 17th century for English Shakespearian actors, and will now host the city’s annual Shakespeare festival.
Founder of both the festival and the theatre, Professor Jerzy Limon, said the city’s history spawned the idea for the project.
“There is a wonderful tradition of English players coming to Gdansk that goes back more than 350 years, and out of that tradition came the idea of having the theatre reconstructed,” he said.
A modern reconstruction of an Elizabethan playhouse, the theatre has a modular design that can be arranged in multiple configurations thanks to a system of 56 lifts.
The auditorium can seat up to 600, and has a retractable roof that can open or close in three minutes.
“We decided from the very beginning that we wanted an opening roof. It allows us to perform in daylight, as was the custom in the renaissance era, or we can have artificial light and the roof closed,” Limon said.
“It’s a combination of the wonderful tradition of English theatrical presence in Gdansk, and very modern stage and theatre technology,” he added.
The theatre, which has Prince Charles as its patron, is predominantly funded by European Union grants. It plans to implement an education programme alongside productions.
The week of British productions is part of a European cycle that launches the venue, which Limon hopes will boost momentum for more European companies to tour.
“We really want all of our activity to have an international character and to encourage foreign companies to tour here more,” he said.