Archive | April, 2012

Queuing up for culture

30 Apr

The Facebook page of the Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre said: “Entrance will be opened from 8:30 pm to 10:oo pm”. I arrived at the theatre’s building site at 7:45, so that I’d have time to take pictures of Will’s birthday cakes. There were 5 cakes, for all the birthday guests. But even though I arrived so early, much too early, I wasn’t the first person there. A small queue was already forming in front of the entrance to the building site. After the candles on the cakes had been lit at 8:20, and we all had sung Happy Birthday, we were watching the growing crowd.

“What are they queuing up for?”, asked Ania.

“For culture” – Karol’s answer was perfectly accurate.

This short dialogue perfectly depicts what was going on. A huge queue for culture. Some people had to wait 2 hours to see the performance of Hamlet Transgatunkowy (Transgeneric Hamlet),  and they were patiently waiting. All these people who showed up in Gdansk to see Hamlet on Shakespeare’s birthday proved that Tricity is culturally active. Among the dense crowd of guests, next to me there was a little girl. She couldn’t be more than 5 years old. When her mom gave her a piece of Shakespeare’s birthday cake, the little girl asked, “Mom, who is that Shakespeare person?”. I just had to smile when I heard that. The little girl and her mom were trying to get out of the crowd, and the mom said, “Let’s go, I’ll tell who Shakespeare was”. I guess there are people for whom Shakespeare can throw a birthday party 😉

Hamlet Transgatunkowy

After a while, we finally got a chance to see the performance ourselves. It wasn’t just an ordinary performance, it was a whole artistic project prepared by Robert Florczak. The show combined the actual scenes performed by actors on the stage, and 3D screening on the theatre’s walls. The actors performing on 4 stages (each stage was assigned to one act) were talking to the characters that were shown on the walls. That was something new, definitely very interesting. And it was dark and cold, and I did happen to slip on mud and step into a puddle, but I only realised that after I’d left the building site.

During the show, I was always standing as close to the stage as possible and I was just admiring the play. I don’t think I could experience something like that in a theatre. In act III, there was a short performance with dancers, who played the actors hired by Hamlet. Krzysztof Leon Dziemaszkiewicz, a performer well-known to most of the people living in Tricity, was really amazing. The character presented by Leon was poisoned. And so he was dying exactly in front of my eyes. On the edge of the stage, less than 2 metres away from me. Even though I did know it was just acting, for a brief moment I felt like jumping onto the stage to help him. It was really an extraordinary experience to be so close to the stage, being almost able to touch the magic of it.

Biting Shakespeare

29 Apr

Jakub Snochowski

There are various embodiments of Hamlet. Some of them ‘live’ inside theatres, some – outside. Jakub and Krzysztof Opaliński, a photographer, are working on a photo project called “Hamlet”. That’s the only Hamlet that Jakub’s been so far. He never played the role in the theatre. But he did play in many other plays by Shakespeare. When he was auditioning for drama school, he performed Puck. But since he’s presented many Shakespearean characters, I couldn’t help but wonder if there is any favourite one. When I asked him about that, he did not hesitate at all, and said, “Mercutio”. The Queen Mab monologue, wchich is one of the most important parts said by Mercutio, also happens to be one of the most difficult monologues. That doesn’t matter for Jakub, he knows the text both in Polish, and in English. And he knows it by heart. He was telling me about this role and it was just obvious that Mercutio really is his role. When we were talking about combining Shakespeare’s texts with things typical of the modern world, he said he likes to stick to the original text. Making it sound modern usually turns out to be a pretty bad idea. Shakespeare’s plays are difficult, they pose some kind of a challenge to the actors. When people decide to change the text, it’s just giving up. That means they simply can’t manage it. “You need to bite Shakespeare inside your head”, said Jakub. He’s absolutely right. Shakespeare requires a lot of time, work, involvement; hours spent on ‘biting’ his works. And then the role can become a success. I have to admit that Jakub impressed me with all his knowledge and commitment. And even though I was so impressed, our conversation felt so casual. We were just talking and at some point (and I don’t really know when that happened) I forgot that I was ‘interviewing’ him. So I was enjoying listening to his stories. He’s a young actor, and yet he’s quite experienced. And when he’s talking, there’s no need to ask questions, the story just goes.

I guess it’ll take some time for me to stop being so excited about Shakespeare’s birthday. All the people that I met then are just amazing and really inspiring. At first I was a little worried that the actors might not want to talk to me. All in all, I’m just a blogger. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I was trying to make an interview for the first time in my life. But they really didn’t care about all that, which really made me feel a little bit better. All of them were so open, kind and modest. The actors that I met in Gdansk are just extraordinary. While listening to them, I was thinking: they’re kind of magical. But it was no magic that made them successful, it was their hard work and commitment that made them who they are. They’re just regular people, but, at the same time, they can be very special. Even though I’ve been talking about them for quite a long time now, I don’t think I’ll ever manage to tell anyone how much I was impressed. I hope I’ll get a chance to meet them again!

I would like to thank all of you (once again) and wish you all the best! I hope you only get offers as good as Hamlet 😉

The Hamlet Dream

28 Apr

Krzysztof Kwiatkowski

I was just shaking with stress when I was sitting down next to Krzysztof in a cafe. I needed a moment to get over this stress, so that I could remember what I wanted to ask him about. It turned out that I had quite a lot of questions. First of all: how it all started, how it happened that he ‘became’ Hamlet. Krzysztof told me that he’s always liked Shakespeare, and the role of Hamlet had been his dream for some time. And then, 2 years after he’d graduated from the acting school, he was given a chance to make his dream come true. He plays Hamlet in the theatre “Scena Stu” in Krakow. The show’s had a ‘break’ for a few months now. I thought such a break can be a bad thing, disturbing the actor, ruining the whole ‘rhythm’. But Krzysztof said it’s just the other way round: it gives him time to improve the role, to get a better understanding of the play. Even though he’s seen various versions of “Hamlet”, both in the theatre, and on TV, and also spent a lot of time working on this role, trying to make it ‘his’, he still doesn’t think that he and Hamlet are one on stage. “It’s never like I know everything”, he said. I asked him which Shakespeare’s play is his favourite, the one that’d make a perfect role for him. “If I didn’t play in Hamlet, I’d say it’s Hamlet“, said Krzysztof. I guess that it’s the fact that he’s making his dream come true, and he has a great passion for acting that make him such a great actor. Such an actor who just enchants the audience the moment he appears on stage.

Krzysztof Kwiatkowski

Yorick stuck in my head

27 Apr

Tomasz Nosinski

There’s not much I can say. It’s just Tomek – surprising. And my favourite monologue. Surprising, as well. It was just a couple of hours before I met Tomek that me and my friend were laughing at (a wonderfully funny) joke: when I was asked if I play in “Hamlet” I answered, “Oh, yes I do, I play Yorick”. We found it very funny. Mostly because just a second later a friend sitting right next to me said, “Say you’re playing the skull”. Putting the jokes aside, we started wondering if there was ever such a case when Yorick, also known as ‘the skull’, was played by an actor. I found my answer on Monday. Or maybe I met my answer. Tomek got onto stage, smiling, and performed a wonderful monologue. The moment I realised he played Yorick, I started jumping around like an idiot, trying to show my friend, Monika: look, look, he’s Yorick, how awesome! The monologue just knocked me off my feet. No wonder it did, all in all – it’s my Yorick 😉 I dropped my camera (which was a sign of amazement) and I was just staring at Tomek. There it was, my dream role, on stage. Not bad. Actually, it was just brilliant! And what an amazing actor. So I was standing there, just a couple of metres away from the stage, and I was beaming, so happy I got a chance to see such a role. I took loads of pictures. I was really amazed with the text, Tomek’s acting, and, most of all, the whole idea. After the performance, I ran up to the stage to get an autograph. So that I don’t forget that performance. I just had to ask Tomek, where he got such and idea. I might have been dreaming of seeing Yorick on stage, but I really didn’t expect to ‘meet’ him in Gdansk. I was asking more and more questions, and listening carefully to Tomek while he was telling me about his “Hamlet” in the Stefan Żeromski Theatre. As it turns out, it’s not only possible to play Yorick, it’s also possible to show the entire play from his point of view. Suddenly it seems like Yorick sees more than anyone else. Just a reminder: he does not have eyes. He’s a skull. Seeing more than actual people. Nice. “We wanted to plant a thought in the spectators’ heads; a thought that maybe Yorick was Hamlet’s father”, said Tomek. He also mentions that he likes it when the audience is surprised. Well, if he wanted to surprise us – he did really well. But the thought that Yorick could be Hamlet’s father can really come as a shock. The brilliant monologue performed by Tomek was written by Agnieszka Jakimiak. When I think about it now, I was really surprised and so happy to see Yorick on stage that I guess I’ll never forget this performance 😉

Tomek Nosinski

To have or not to have a Shakespearean accent

26 Apr

Marcin Czarnik

Maybe I do love “Hamlet” too much to be objective, but as far as the actors’ performances are concerned, I can’t have been mistaken, and I’ll write it once again: the actors were just brilliant. When Marcin Czarnik appeared on stage and said the first words: “To be or not to be…”, it sent shiver down my back and my jaw dropped in amazement. I guess I didn’t expect to hear the most famous monologue in original. The moment I heard those words, I thought: it’s so easy to ruin this text. It takes a lot of courage to present it. But Marcin didn’t ruin it. Me and my friends were trying to find any mistakes, in pronunciation, or in lines. Not this time, there were none. Or if there were any, I just didn’t notice them, being too absorbed in listening to Marcin and whispering the lines with him. In the afternoon I met him in front of the theatre “Teatr w Oknie” (theatre in the window). He was surrounded by some teenage fans. I took a picture of them (that I promised to post on the internet) and asked Marcin, “Are you going to the theatre’s building site?”. He shook my hand and introduced himself, “Marcin. No, I’m not going there now”. At first I was really surprised that I was ‘allowed’ to call him by his first name. It wasn’t more than 2 hours before that I was whispering to the camera: he’s so wonderful! When I got over that shock, I asked him why he decided to present the monologue in English. “But I did it in Polish, too”, he answered. “We had quite a freedom of choice considering the text. So I decided to do it both in Polish, and in English”. I mentioned the little ‘game’ of finding the mistakes. “Did you find any?”, he asked. “Not really, no!”, I shouted out, excited. I was delighted with the fact that a Polish actor was able to perform Shakespeare’s text in such a wonderful way. And it was the original text. But Marcin surprised me again: as it turned out, he also tried to perform the monologue in German. And then, this Monday (23rd April), he met a linguist who showed him what Shakespeare’s text should really sound like. The same words, but at the same time so different. I guess that Marcin will soon surprise us with his presentation of “Hamlet” with a genuine shakespearean accent! 😉

Marcin Czarnik

and the photo I promised to post here:

Marcin Czarnik

Breathing Hamlet

25 Apr

Jacek Król

“I’m breathing Hamlet!”, I shouted out to my friends while trying to capture the amazing emotions presented on stage by Jacek Król. Later, after the performance, I had a chance to talk to Jacek. I wanted to know his story: how his adventure with “Hamlet” started, how he managed such a difficult and demanding role, and if all of the emotions are shown by him as a result of his own understanding of the play, or maybe it’s the text that imposes certain emotions. His Hamlet experience started simply – he was offered to play the part; and it was an offer that he just couldn’t turn down (is there someone who wouldn’t want to play Hamlet?). The whole process of creation, so much work and effort put into it – it was these things that were making the role more and more extraordinary. An interesting fact: in this particular play (starring Jacek Król), there was no King of Denmark – the recently deceased father of Hamlet. There was no actor playing this part, the King was presented as a voice inside his son’s head. And so Hamlet was all alone during this difficult time,  when he was thinking about his mother, wondering if she loves him; trying to cope with his father’s death, haunted by the King’s ghost. He was alone, struggling, being obsessed with poisonous thoughts. And that’s the reason why Jacek decided to show so many, and such strong, emotions. “Hamlet can be shown as an intellectual, clinical, cold-hearted”, said Jacek in answer to my question about emotions. But he decided to show the war of thoughts in Hamlet’s head. “It’s a hard decision, Hamlet can fight for the throne, but he could just as well close himself in a library and just keep reading books”. That might have been an option. But Hamlet chose to fight.
Jacek’s acting enchanted me to such an extent that I was just standing in front of the stage, observing him and waiting for the new emotion to occur on his face. And even though the text presented by him was quite vulgar (translated by Jerzy Sito), it made the performance even more emotional.This text combined with Jacek’s acting created a wonderful image of Hamlet: lost and bitter. Just the way he is in my imagination.

Hamlet all over the place

24 Apr

The great celebration of William Shakespeare’s 448th birthday started at noon in Gdansk. Hamlet was just all over the place. The Hamlets played on 10 stages on Długi Targ, in the very heart of Gdansk. The actors were invited by one of the most famous Polish directors: Andrzej Wajda. And since it was Wajda who invited them, you can be sure that these were only the best actors, and there were 26 of them. 26 amazing actors: Grzegorz Przybył, Michał Rolnicki, Mirosław Baka, Wojciech Solarz, Radosław Krzyżowski, Marcin Sianko, Krzysztof Gordon, Paulina Chruściel, Marek Oleksy, Piotr Kondrat, Tomasz Nosinski, Adam Biernat, Marcin Czarnik, Krystian Nehrebecki, Maciej Konopiński, Jacek Król, Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, Jakub Snochowski, Krzysztof Tyniec, Krzysztof Zawadzki, Maciej Tomaszewski, Wojciech Leonowicz, Marek Mokrowiecki, Michał Mikołajczak, Michał Majnicz and Jan Mancewicz. So many well-known faces gathered in one place, it was wonderful. The crowds of Shakespeare nuts (and, of course, school groups) flooded the place in just a couple of minutes. People would queue up in impossibly long lines to get their invitations signed by the actors. The photographers were rushing through the dense crowd to get as close as possible to the stage. So much ado about Hamlet! 😉 And the adventure started. At least for me it did. I took my camera out of the bag and started trudging through the crowd to see what happens where. Just an hour later I was laughing at my camera being the reason of my getting so close to the stage. People would move to let me get closer to it, or they’d ask who I work for. At least I know I looked like a professional, that’s the first success of the day! 🙂 I was running in circles, from one stage to another, telling everyone that I was sure to start crying the very moment I heard “To be or not to be”. And while I was getting more and more crazy, amazing thing started to happen on the stages. The actors were just perfect, getting inside the spactators’ heads. They were the centre of the world, just for a few minutes, but they were. Each one of them. All of them – brilliant actors. Attracting the attention of every person cramped in front of the stage. And really it was all of them, ALL, that were so special. In their own way. All of them doing their best. Showing real emotions. Giving us everything they could. Sometimes I felt I had to stop taking pictures. Just so I could stop for a moment, stand there, stare at them in amazement, admire their work. And they really should be admired.