“This above all: to thine own self be true.” Hamlet
John Bell is one of the nation’s most illustrious theatre personalities.
Award-winning actor, acclaimed director, risk-taking impressario and
torch-bearing educationalist, Bell has been a key figure in shaping the
nation’s theatrical identity as we know it over the past 50 years.
After graduating from Sydney University in 1962, Bell worked for the
Old Tote Theatre Company, all of Australia’s state theatre companies
and was an Associate Artist of Britain’s world-famous
Royal Shakespeare Company.
As co-founder of Sydney’s highly influential Nimrod Theatre Company,
Bell presented many productions of landmark Australian plays, including
David Williamson’s Travelling North, The Club and The Removalists.
He also initiated an Australian Shakespeare style with Nimrod
productions such as Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth.
In 1990, Bell took on an even greater challenge, founding The Bell
Shakespeare Company. Since then, his productions as director have
included Hamlet, Romeo And Juliet, The Taming Of The Shrew, Richard 3, Pericles, Henry 4, Henry 5, Julius Caesar, Antony And Cleopatra,
The Comedy Of Errors, Wars Of The Roses, Measure For Measure,
Macbeth and As You Like It, as well as Goldoni’s The Servant Of Two
Masters, Gogol’s TheGovernment Inspector and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist.
Meanwhile his roles as an actor for Bell Shakespeare have included Hamlet, Shylock, Henry V, Richard III, Macbeth, Malvolio, Berowne, Petruchio,
Leontes, Coriolanus, Prospero, King Lear and Titus Andronicus.
Bell also played the title role in two co-productions with Queensland Theatre Company: Richard 3 and Heiner Müller’s Anatomy Titus Fall Of Rome: A Shakespeare Commentary. In addition, he directed Madame Butterfly for
an Oz Opera national tour.
Bell’s unique contribution to national culture has been recognised by many bodies. He is an Officer of the Order of Australia and the Order of theBritish Empire; has an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the Universities of Sydney, New South Wales and Newcastle; and was recognised in 1997by the National Trust of Australia as one of Australia’s Living Treasures.
In 2003, the Australia Business Arts Foundation also awarded Bell the
Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Cultural Leadership Award.
As an actor and director, his many awards include a Helpmann Award for
Best Actor (Richard 3, 2002), a Producers and Directors Guild Award for
Lifetime Achievement and the JC Williamson Award (2009) for extraordinary
contribution to Australia’s live entertainment industry.
“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day,
thou canst not then be false to any man.” Hamlet
New Zealand-born Peter Evans was appointed Co-Artistic Director,
alongside John Bell in 2012. A devoted classicist, he is the first person
to share the Artistic Director title and duties, since Bell Shakespeare
was founded in 1990, and was handpicked by Bell to co-lead Australia’s
foremost Shakespearean and classical theatre company.
Evans began his career directing at the University of Auckland, before
moving to Australia to study at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic
Art (NIDA). At the young age of 25, Bell invited Evans to assist Steven
Berkoff, the legendary English director, writer and actor, who was about
to direct Bell in Coriolanus in 1996. Subsequently Evans was asked to
direct Macbeth for Bell Shakespeare’s first regional tour in 1997, which
aided in establishing the Company’s national ambitions.
While studying at NIDA, Evans worked at Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre
with Neil Armfield on The Tempest and The Blind Giant Is Dancing. Later
he assisted Wayne Harrison on the world premiere of David Williamson’s
The Heretic at the Sydney Opera House.
Moving to Melbourne in the late 1990s, Evans worked as a freelance
director for Bell Shakespeare (Two Gentleman of Verona, The Tempest),
Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre (Yellow Wall Paper) and the Queensland
Theatre Company (The Daylight Atheist). He then spent four years as
Associate Director at Melbourne Theatre Company and directed
Clybourne Park, A Behanding in Spokane, Life Without Me, Dead Man’s
Cell Phone, The Ugly One, God of Carnage, Savage River (co-production
with Griffin Theatre Company) Realism, The Hypocrite, Blackbird, Don
Juan in Soho,Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The History Boys,
Don’s Party, The Give and Take, Dumbshow, and The Daylight Atheist.
Peter’s directing credits also include Pygmalion, The Grenade, The Great,
Fat Pig, and The Give and Take (Sydney Theatre Company); Hamlet,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, King Lear, Copenhagen, Proof,
Muldoon, and The Christian Brothers (New Zealand’s Court Theatre)
Also Jesus Hopped the A Train (Red Stitch Actors Theatre); A Poor Student
for the Store Room (Malthouse Theatre); Sexual Perversity in Chicago
(Theatre Jamb at the Bondi Pavilion); Kiss of the Spiderwoman
(Theatre Adami at the Stables) and The Dumb Waiter (Studio Company
at Belvoir St Theatre).
In 2010, Evans returned to Bell Shakespeare and has since directed new
versions of Julius Caesar (2011), Macbeth (2012) and Phèdre (2013).
In addition to directing, Evans is the curator of the Company’s
development arm, Mind’s Eye.