Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre


This sleek, thoroughly modern theatre, a charcoal-black brick bunker with a tardis-like white interior bathed in light from the roof, is the dream child of Jerzy Limon, who was inspired by records of English players visiting Poland every year as early as 1601, in the heyday of Renaissance theatre, in Shakespeare’s own lifetime no less. Troupes would perform at court in Warsaw during the winter and in Gdansk during the August festival of St Dominic. Their theatre in Gdansk was the Fencing School and remained in use for at least two centuries. Standing on the site of the new theatre, it is thought to have been built in 1611, and appears to have been modelled on the Fortune Theatre in London.

Today’s modern creation, completed by the Italian architect Renato Rizzi in 2014, is one of the world’s very few Shakespearian theatre, with a stage that can rise up the middle of the auditorium if so required. But apart from that, the design makes only the barest nod to Shakespeare’s day. The auditorium is like a box withing a box, with a roof that can be flung open, box-like, if wind and rain allow. Within the austere, but intriguingly windowless block, the whole complex is a mesmerising labyrinth, with vistas, white walls and light permeating each and every part of a -like building.

Guided tours are offered and thoroughly recommended. Somewhere in the rafters you will discover a smaller auditorium/meeting room hanging basket-like from the concrete walls. Light even filters down to the basement bar-cum-exhibition space. Every hall in some way interconnects with others, near and far, while the black exterior – constructed of 620,000 dark anthracitic handmade bricks – offers a velvet-black contrasts with Gdansk’s Hanseatic merchant’s fantasy of red-brick façades. The theatre has won numerous international awards, including the prestigious international Architizer A + Award 2016. One of many reasons to travel to Gdansk.


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Issue 57, May 2018 Black Sea Miracle
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