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Shakespeare and Poland, a new festival at Shakespeare's Globe

Festival preview

SHAKESPEARE’S Globe has announced the programme for Shakespeare and Poland, a ten-day festival opening on Wednesday, June 26, 2019.

The festival of performances, music and panel discussions celebrates Poland’s affinity with Shakespeare and marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of artist, playwright and Shakespeare interpreter, Stanisław Wyspiański.

Shakespeare’s Globe has commissioned the first translation of Wyspianski’s seminal works, Hamlet Study and The Death of Ophelia, especially for the festival and The Death of Ophelia will receive its world premiere in English in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Patrick Spottiswoode, Director, Globe Education and curator of the festival, commented: “From the haunting Laments, written by Kochanowski when Shakespeare was a teenager, to the visceral and mesmerising acappella Songs of Lear, this new festival seeks to celebrate the richness and rawness of Polish production, poetry and translation.

“The centrepiece will be the first translation into English of Wyspiański’s Hamlet Study and The Death of Ophelia. Still revered in Poland, he remains virtually unknown in this country as a playwright, painter and designer.“

Opening the festival on Wednesday, June 26 will be Poland is Hamlet, a panel discussion exploring the place of Shakespeare, and more specifically Hamlet, in the Polish cultural and political imagination. Professor Tony Howard, Jan Klata, Dr Wanda Świątkowska, Professor Małgorzata Grzegorzewska and Jerzy Limon will appear as panelists.

Polonius: The Polish Man is on Thursday, June 27. Using the character of Polonius, whose name translates from Latin as ‘the Polish Man’, as a starting point, a panel of leading scholars and directors, including Dr Jolanta Rzegocka, Professor Jarosław Kilian and Professor Andrew Hadfield, share their perspectives on the relationship between Hamlet and Polish political writings of the time.

On Sunday, June 30, the first play written in Polish, Dismissal of the Grecian Envoys by Jan Kochanowski, directed by James Wallace, will be performed simultaneously in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and close to the site of the original 1579 performance in Warsaw directed by Waldemar Rażniak.

Part of the Globe’s Read Not Dead series, Dismissal of the Grecian Envoys will be followed by a reading of Kochanowski’s extra-ordinarily moving Laments, written following the death of his two year old daughter, in a translation by Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney and Stanislaw Baranczak. Heaney regarded the Laments as Poland’s equivalent of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Laments will be directed by Jason Morell.

The festival continues on Thursday, July 4 with Wyspiański: Hamlet Study and The Death of Ophelia. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Polish playwright and artist Wyspiański’s birth, Shakespeare’s Globe has published the first ever English translation of his seminal work, Hamlet Study, translated by Barbara Bogoczek and Professor Tony Howard.

Following an introduction to his life and works with extracts from Hamlet Study read by Globe actors will be the world premiere in English of Wyspiański’s one-act play, Death of Ophelia, written in 1905. The play will be directed by Nastazja Somers with music by Nicola Chang.

Barbara Bogoczek and Prof Dariusz Kosiński (Jagiellonian University, Krakow) will join Professor Tony Howard and Patrick Spottiswoode in discussion about Wyspiański’s life and work.

Songs of Lear closes the festival on Saturday, July 6. The award-winning Song of the Goat Theatre Company will portray the tragic stories from Shakespeare’s King Lear through music, movement and a cappella song. Based in Wrocław, Song of the Goat Theatre Company was created by Grzegorz Bral. These performances of Songs of Lear at Shakespeare’s Globe will mark the launch of ROKPA Great Britain.

The festival is presented with the support of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, the Polish Cultural Institute in London, the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute, the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw, the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre, the Song of the Goat Theatre, Wrocław, the Polish Book Institute and His Excellency Arkady Rzegocki, the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, and Mrs Jolanta Rzegocka.