The newly re-built Capitol Theatre opened its doors to the the public at the beginning of the month. Keen to see what all the fuss was about, we headed down to Capitol to hook up with Joanna Kiszkis, who kindly gave us in depth tour of the building, including all the areas back stage.
The re-built Capitol Theatre is housed in the historic building of the old pre-war ‘Capitol’ cinema and theatre house, which was built in 1929 and partially destroyed during WWII. Designed by Friedrich Lipp, an architect from Berlin, the old building composed of a theatre hall with a 1200-seat audience, a hotel and an administrative section.
The building has never really managed to retain its original charm until now, largely due to the damage inflicted on it during the war and the cheap communist renovation that followed. Although Capitol was improved post communism, it was damaged yet again in 1997 after the year's infamous flood. A major refurbishment was needed, and it came in 2011 when EU funds helped to start building what we see in front of our very eyes today.
We began our tour in the wonderful open space that is the Capitol Theatre Cafe. The Cafe has an intriguing, inspiring and alluring mixture of colours and styles, where the classic blends in with contemporary. Our guide, Joanna Kiszkis, ensured us that this is no coincidence: "The Cafe does represent the eclectic look of our repertoire, which includes a mixture of classic and contemporary plays. Some of the beds you see here are even based on the ones from the old theatre in the 1920's."
Joanna was also keen to add that the area is not only a Cafe: "We actually think of it as more of a courtyard. This area didn't exist in the previous building's construction, and it's designed to create a feeling of a warm, welcoming area. Here you can find out about what's on at the theatre, but it's also very much a 'meeting place'. The Cafe is open from 11am till late, you can chill out and listen to some nice ambient music, read magazines or get stuck into some of the books from our book-crossing shelves. You can also play board games such as scrabble, and we have free wi-fi too."
Next up we went upstairs to take a look at the new auditorium, which is a beauty to behold. A lot of research went into finding out how the original auditorium looked pre-war, while top quality materials were used to bring a taste of yesteryear that will last well into the future.
Despite the desire to give the refurbished theatre a classical a look, a few slight modernisations have been made to improve the visitor experience. One such example is the auditorium's 'stepped' walls which help improve the venue's acoustics – especially for those in the back seats. Another improvement is in the lighting area, where many LED lights have been installed to improve efficiency. The view of the stage is great no matter what angle, while the detail on the roof is incredible, all of which make the new look Capitol a great place to catch a live performance.
Following the auditorium, Joanna took us round Capitol's public spaces, corridors and conference facilities. The venue's modern design is a photographer's dream (shame we didn't have a pro with us at the time) with some parts baring a minor resemblance to Berlin's renowned museum of Jewish culture.
Most of the walls have been decorated with photography and art, with many of the people who helped build the theatre forming part of the imagery. Capitol's performers are decorated in a line of photography near the entrance to the auditorium, while elsewhere humorous photos taken during the building's construction take the limelight. There are also a host of peculiar, dwarf sized sculptures that each represent a characters from the Mistrz i Małgorzata.
On the 1st floor crossover one of the building's most characteristic decorations is impossible to miss. The large wall of greenery certainly catches the eye, and is easily visible from the Cafe below. This natural wall of plants and flowers is also the largest of its kind in Poland.
Last but not least, Joanna took us back stage after the culmination of rehearsals for Mistrz i Małgorzata. The view from the stage is every bit as impressive as it is from the seating area, and one can only imagine that it must be a joy to perform there.
Going backstage also gave us a chance to meet all of the unsung people who help to produce the shows. The lighting engineers, pull rope managers and sound setup staff were all there and happy to say hello to Wroclaw Uncut, and by climbing up high and ducking down below the stage, we able to get a glimpse of what the shows must look like from their perspective (see for yourself via the photos below). The performers of Mistrz i Małgorzata were equally affable, and clearly put a lot of passion into what they do.
The backstage visit was the last stop on Joanna's fascinating tour, but before we left couldn't help but ask about the future possibility of plays at Capitol being subtitled in English for foreigners. Right now nothing has been confirmed, although Joanna did say that the theatre are looking into it and are keen to attract a multicultural audience.
As well as plays, Capitol will be hosting a number of musical performances and concerts that can be appreciated by anyone regardless of their language. One thing is for sure though – if there's anything big going on at Capitol, it'll be on Uncut.
Have you paid a visit to Capitol Theatre yet? What's your thoughts? Feel free to comment in the Facebook box below.