Faces, masks, props…- Shakespeare’s world in Polish theatre posters

Faces, masks, props…- Shakespeare’s world in Polish theatre posters

Faces, masks, props…- Shakespeare’s world in Polish theatre posters

3. – 19. 05. 2023.
The opening of the exhibition is May 4 at 7 p.m

When the lights go out, what’s left is the theatre poster. Theatre is a fleeting art, although it may seem as if Shakespeare’s world has no ending, being interpreted countless times on stage and immortalized by posters, over and over again.

The poster is often called the theatre aristocrat. It has no use value. He picks the topic and means of expression himself. He is a mirror which reflects both a literary work and a theatrical performance at once. The author of the poster suggests a direction of interpretation, but at the same time encourages us to find our own answers, hiding somewhere in the place between the drama and the performance.

Shakespeare described the entire human world: their emotions, thoughts, fulfilled and unfulfilled intentions. The fates of Shakespeare’s characters are full of tragedy or brilliant humour, at times leading to extreme pessimism and yet, somehow showing an endless joy of living. For more than four hundred years, the world theatre has been following in the footsteps of the great Englishman and drawing inspiration from his works, from the way he depicted people and the world around them, time and again.

There are many Shakespeare’s heroes who stand with proud faces before the battle. Their gestures – sometimes grand, other times undignified – determine the value. Among the heroes of Shakespeare’s plays, there is no shortage of those who hide behind masks in order to orchestrate their games, hide their faces and make grimaces. Shakespeare created a world of people with their full spectrum of good and evil, joy and sadness; he showed us tragedy, he showed us clownish laughter too. In the multitude of characters, faces and masks, laughter and crying, wisdom and stupidity – all are intertwined. Faces and masks fill both a large space and the most intimate corner. Shakespeare’s characters are followed by noise, by the clamour of battle, by thunderous laughter, and sometimes by impressive silence. They scream from the top of their lungs and whisper the most tender of confessions. Around them, rulers rise and fall, crowns tumble from their heads, a dagger flashes as a witness to the crimes committed. What’s left in the end, after fulfilling their roles, are discarded props no one needs: a bloody knife, a lost crown, a withered rose, a redundant hat that once adorned a nobleman’s head, stairs leading nowhere, a useless cloak. What’s left in the end,  is a tiny spider painstakingly weaving its web, day after day.

Veleposlanstvo Republike Poljske logotipShakespeare’s world is narrated through theatre posters of the masters from the Polish School of Posters, who debuted in the mid-fifties of the 20th century. Their students and successors dominated the field at the turn of the century. I also reached for the works of authors that were introduced at the beginning of the 21st century. In a period of almost sixty years, techniques have changed. Pure graphics and artistic craftsmanship mark the works by Jan Lenica and Marcin Mroszczak. In the generations that followed, Waldemar Świerzy, Wiesław Rosocha, Wiesław Wałkuski master the posters with their vision and painterly imagination. The youngest among them boldly reach for photography, which they combine with graphic elements, sometimes even giving preference to the vision captured by the camera lens. Each of them, in their own way, narrates the world through an image that transcends words. Techniques and strategies may change, but playing with Shakespeare will go on and on…

Zenon Butkiewicz

Exhibition catalog – Faces, masks, props…Shakespeare’s world in Polish theatre poster

Under the auspices of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Zagreb.

Posters at the exhibition are from following private, museum and theatre collections: Instytut Teatralny Warszawa, Sabina Laskowska-Hinz, Cezary Niedziółka, Waldemar Świerzy Galerije i kazališta: Narodowy Warszawa; Wybrzeże Gdańsk; Powszechny Warszawa; Teatr Jana Kochanowskiego Opole; Teatr Juliusza Słowackiego Kraków; Teatr Polski Poznań.