Last year’s Golden Yorick, the first post-pandemic, revealed the need to look to Shakespeare for cleansing laughter. We stepped out of self-isolation and theatrical lockdowns and wanted a ‘lesser Shakespeare’, a good-natured one who forgives both people and the world. This comedic current was strongly represented in the final five of the competition, presented to the Gdańsk audience and the international jury.
The current season also revealed a new trend in Polish interpretations of Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies. Three stagings of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, two of Measure for Measure, two of King Lear, two travesties of Romeo and Juliet, and single works on Macbeth, The Tempest, and Hamlet. In all 12 Polish productions of William Shakespeare’s works, the most important theme was love. It was precisely this theme that interested the creators the most; they plucked it out of tragedy and comedy, even from the second plan. And in this strategy, there was a desperate attempt to understand our sexuality, to look at our own and other people’s carnality, to consider the price we pay for loving another person, what is hidden in the concept of initiation, what is the struggle for the right to love and have sex (Szczecin’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream). How tradition and convention format the very notion of love and fulfilment (two A Midsummer Night’s Dreams from Wrocław). The sick love of a slave for their master (How beauteous mankind is! after The Tempest), the pain of children unloved by their father (Lear’s Daughters), the drama of remembering parental mistakes, the cry for lost love and dignity (“Lear” by Seweryn and Opryński). The choice between love for man and god, law and flesh was accentuated in productions of Measure for Measure from Płock and Kielce. In the student-wordless Macbeth, the relationship between the thane of Cawdor and his wife was more important than war, death, and the struggle for power, while in the Legend of Hamlet from Tarnów, the theme of the abandoned Ophelia, Gertrude disappointed by the love of both husbands and the female embodiment of Laertes, wounded by the rejected sisterly love, resonated most strongly.
Shakespeare still is the most crucial theatrical mentor on hopeless cases of variously defined love, pointing out both its creational and destructive power.
The Polish theatre learned to ‘use’ Shakespeare, to use him for purposes greater than the theatre.
What happens with Shakespeare on the Polish stages reflects what the Polish theatre looks like and what it’s interested in.
We look at the titles of this year’s adaptations of Shakespeare, the names of creative collective members, locations of realisations, and we can see what environments reach for Shakespeare, the way they want to open him, and what gap in reality they fill with him.
There has been a clear shift into small forms, actions bordering on performance, and choices such as a fragment instead of a whole.
This is why there have been so many projects of the inclusive theatre this season, which have presented the stage space as a community space on a Shakespearean canvas.
Fascinatingly, it was Shakespeare, not biblical stories, not Greek mythology, not Romanticism or theatre of the absurd that became the starting point for productions inclusive of people of all spectrums of disability in the process of creating the work.
Inclusive Shakespeare is what we might call the broad front of performances that brings together professional actors with non-professional ones, hearing actors with deaf actors, and able-bodied actors with actors who aren’t – either mentally or physically. A mature artist with a youthful audience. Stories taken from Shakespeare have become an example of a universal language in which every person can find their way.
Shakespeare is the base for cultural associations, stage rituals, and the strategy for integration.
We couldn’t help but notice this trend and appreciate its ground-breaking nature.
The productions of inclusive theatre are not revolutionary in reading Shakespeare’s works, but working on Shakespeare is their beginning of a revolution in mentality, in consciousness, in equality, in identity.
Shakespeare is the pretext and the material, the desired ally, and the desired companion for a journey through transformed theatre.
It is as if it wasn’t Shakespeare, the notion of reaching for his works that ennoble the theatre, it was the theatre itself that values Shakespeare in the process of widening inclusivity.
Hence the choice of the final five competing for the Golden Yorick.
We are shifting the focus of sensitivity.
In the verdict, we highlight both in-depth interpretations of the Stratfordian’s work and inclusive art projects showing how Shakespeare’s work is a natural platform for conversation about the foundations of humanity.
We juxtapose incomparable strategies and emotions; we equate disparate modes of stage presence and expression. Shakespeare is a pretext for the theatre’s work on the spectator’s and citizen’s consciousness, the new theatre is a pretext for Shakespeare’s new triumph.
In inclusive theatre, Shakespeare isn’t necessarily a text – he’s the alphabet.
Inclusive Shakespeare also includes the theatre.
Łukasz Drewniak – competition’s selector