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Shakespeare Festival in Poland: Ukrainians spoke about the peculiarities of theaters during the war

From July 27 to August 6, Gdansk (Poland) hosts the annual International Shakespeare Festival. The program of the theatrical forum includes about ten Shakespeare productions performed in different countries of the world. This year, theater companies from Denmark, Norway, the Czech Republic, the USA and, of course, from Poland itself will present their versions of the great Shakespearean tragedies and comedies in Poland. As part of the Shakespeare Forum in Gdansk, master classes, debates by theater critics, concerts, and exhibitions are held.

Read also: Theater during the war: Zaporozhye hosted a private screening of the play “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” with a dedication to Parajanov

The International Shakespeare Festival in Gdansk was founded by the outstanding Polish Shakespeare scholar, writer and translator Jerzy Limon. Thanks to the great selfless work of Mr. Limon, the festival in Gdansk has become one of the most authoritative Shakespeare forums in Europe. And, according to theater critics, the Gdansk Shakespeare Festival ranks second in terms of influence after large-scale Shakespeare festival events in the home of Shakespeare himself, in Britain, in Stratford-upon-Avon, where there is both the Shakespeare Institute and its own Shakespeare theatre.

Polish Shakespeare scholar Jerzy Limon (an outstanding scientist passed away in 2021, and his festival work is now being continued by his associates), by the way, categorically denied the problem of the so-called “Shakespearean question” (that is, a discussion on the authorship of the great Bard’s plays). Jerzy Limon rejected even the very question – “Was it or wasn’t it?” (Shakespeare himself). For the great playwright really was, as evidenced, according to Mr. Jerzy Limon, and archival documents, and numerous facts of the life of Shakespeare himself and his family in Stratford-upon-Avon.

A special event within the framework of the International Shakespeare Festival in Gdansk is the discussion panel “Theatre during the War”, the purpose of which is to hear the voice of the Ukrainian theater in Europe about the Russian-Ukrainian war, about the transformation of Ukrainian theaters into centers of humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians, about the volunteer movement that was launched Ukrainian theaters, about stage activity in the forced format of a “bomb shelter stage” and about the heroism of Ukrainian theatrical figures who are now defending Ukraine both at the forefront of the Russian-Ukrainian war and in the ranks of territorial defense.

“On July 30, the program of the Shakespeare Theater Festival in Gdansk hosted a panel discussion “Theatre during the War”, which was attended by representatives of different sectors of the Ukrainian theater, – says ZN.UA Honored Artist of Ukraine, actress of the Ivano-Frankivsk National Theater named after Ivan Franko Nadezhda Levchenko, (she is a guest and participant of the International Shakespeare Festival in Gdansk) – Our Ivano-Frankivsk National Drama Theater named after Ivan Franko in Poland is now represented by the artistic director of our theater, People’s Artist of Ukraine Rostislav Derzhipilsky, as well as an actor of our theater, honored artist Roman Lutsky and me, Nadezhda Levchenko. As part of the panel discussion about Ukrainian theater at the festival in Gdansk, the speakers were also ProEnglish Theater director Tetyana Shelepko, chief director of the Kyiv Academic Drama and Comedy Theater on the Left Bank of the Dnieper Tamara Trunova, curator of Gogolfest and the Dah Theater Andrey Palatny, as well as Ukrainian director , actor and teacher, and now a resident of the Hans Otto Theater Andrey May.

The panellists shared their experience of operating their theaters since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. They also formed a request to the European theatrical community regarding the creation of co-productions with Ukrainian theatrical figures and the creation of cultural and artistic products that reflect the present day of Ukraine for the effective promotion of our country in Europe and in the whole world. During the panel discussion, the issue of the boycott of Russian culture was also raised, as the only gap for the integration of the “Russian world” in Europe today.

The actress Nadezhda Levchenko herself was already a direct participant in the Shakespeare festival race in Gdansk, when in 2017 the Frankovsky National Theater presented its famous performance, the horror neo-opera Hamlet directed by Rostislav Derzhipilsky, as part of the festival Shakespeare poster. In the same 2017, the captious festival audience paid tribute to the Ukrainian radical stage version of Hamlet, according to which the Danish prince returns from the “other” world to his own ancient dreams, namely to the family tomb, where all his dead relatives rest in eternal sleep. Hamlet returns to his past to try, at least in a dream, to change the fateful course of events, to preserve the integrity of the state and the unity of the royal family. But everything is useless. For the book of his life has long since been written by Shakespeare himself. Nadezhda Levchenko, together with actresses-colleagues from the Frankovsky Drama Theater, plays one of the Macbethian witches (eriny) in the Ukrainian experimental “Hamlet”, predicting misfortunes for Hamlet and his royal family: the director integrated these witches into “Hamlet”, and later into “Romeo and Juliet” from Shakespeare’s other great tragedy, Macbeth.

As the Honored Artist of Ukraine Nadezhda Levchenko admitted to our publication, she would have dreamed that in the following years at the International Shakespeare Festival in Gdansk, Ukraine would be presented by another Shakespeare production from Frankivsk – “Romeo and Juliet”, which also offers an original director’s view of the tragedy, when the core and motor of events, in addition to the world-famous couple of lovers, is also the monk Lorenzo (actor Alexei Gnatkovsky), in whose hands are the fragile destinies of children from two hostile families – the Montagues and the Capulets.

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