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Migrant crisis, politics headline Polish Shakespeare festival

AFP , Monday 8 Aug 2016
shakespeare festival
Gdansk Shakespeare festival (Photo: Still from the festival's first weekend trailer)

The migration crisis, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and censorship in Iran were among the themes woven into Shakespearean classics performed in Poland's port city of Gdansk this week at an international festival dedicated to the Bard.

"This year, political themes and accents were particularly present in pieces performed by theatre troupes from Poland, Israel or Iran," festival organiser and head of the Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre, Professor Jerzy Limon told AFP as the week-long festival wound down Sunday.

"William Shakespeare's plays can also focus on the dangers of the world in which we now live," added the scholar, the driving force behind building the city's Shakespeare theatre.

Opened in 2014, the cutting-edge venue was inspired by a drawing by a 17th century Gdansk artist detailing a humble wood-panel building used in the city for fencing and theatre.

It features an open-air courtyard, similar to London's original Globe playhouse launched by Shakespeare himself in 1599, and attracted troupes of English actors performing his works.

Performances of Hamlet had contemporary political overtones this year, according to festival jury president Jacek Kopcinski.

"HamletMachine, directed by Nava Zuckerman of Israel's Tmuna theatre, is a cry of protest against a country permanently at war," Kopcinski told AFP.

The Hamlet of Iranian Arash Dadgar, focuses on a country beset by tyranny, "where people and books disappear, where censorship is rife," he added.

Thirty-two theatres from across the globe took part in the 20th edition of the Gdansk Shakespeare festival, which this year marked the 400th anniversary of the English playwright's death.

"In previous years, Shakespeare adaptations focused on human and social matters, like love, morality and homosexuality.

"This year, we're seeing more politics," festival-goer Kalina Mielke told AFP.

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