Much Ado About Nothing | Interview with Designer Pip Runciman
15 Aug 2019
Alana and Holly Mitchell are sisters and avid supporters of Bell Shakespeare, having attended productions for over 20 years. We spoke to them both about why they love what Bell Shakespeare does both on and off the mainstage
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
“Sisters forever. Holly is a horticulturist. Alana is a retired biochemist. The young Holly was an amateur thespian, including a performance an ensemble performance of America Hurrah at La Mama theatre in Carlton. Alana was not so creative, except perhaps in the world of science.
We treasure time together, when we ‘click’ beautifully, doing all sorts of things. They include attending various forms of live performance and art.”
2. What was your first contact with Bell Shakespeare?
“Our first relevant contact was with John Bell in his stunning performance as Hamlet in the Nimrod Theatre production at the Pram Factory in the early 70s. We went independently, and didn’t exchange notes until much later in life.
Holly in particular was captivated by John and the ensemble, seeing the performance five or six times. “I’m still not sure how I ate that month,” Holly recalled.
The next landmark was when we both went to see John in his first appearance with the Sydney Theatre Company as Cyrano de Bergerac in 1980. Once again, we didn’t arrange to go together, just ended up doing the same thing…uncanny.
Years passed, Bell Shakespeare Company was formed and we started to have annual ‘hits’ of Shakespeare and the company.”
3. What has been your favourite Bell Shakespeare production and why?
Holly: “It’s like choosing from a box of exquisite hand-crafted truffles. Each is unique and brings another ‘dish to the banquet’ that is the work of the bard.”
Alana: “I hadn’t really thought about it until now, but am not too comfortable with comparisons. I would have to say that I struggled with Barry Kosky’s King Lear. But each production brings something fresh, thought-provoking and inspiring.”
Having said that, the sisters agreed that they loved the madness of As You Like It. “We both have very fond memories of Blazey Best and Darren Gilshenan in Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters. And what could beat the drama of Kate Mulvany in Richard III.”
4. What is the greatest memory you’ve shared with the company?
“Our first Ball Gala in Sydney at the Sydney Opera House was pretty exciting for the girls from the south. We had the best fun, capped by our midnight ramble home to Milson’s Point over the bridge. We are now veterans of four galas, soon to be five, if we’re still welcome!
There are lots of other amazing memories. At the Sofitel, Anna and John performing sonnets, Paul Kelly’s Shakespeare-related music. Back in the day, we loved attending the rehearsals in progress when that was happening in Melbourne.
Every opportunity to interact with the Bell team is a high spot. We always feel genuinely welcome and feel we have friends in the company and its supporters.”
5. Why do you support Bell Shakespeare?
Holly: “I was attracted by the soaring ambitions of a small but perfectly formed ensemble to take theatre to almost every nook and cranny of this vast nation.”
Both: “We love the schools, juvenile detention centre and regional programs, aside from the obvious mainstage performances.”
6. What inspired you to become a part of Bell Shakespeare Legacy Circle?
“Every reason we’ve stated above, and of course the sentiment that ‘you can’t take it with you’.”
7. What excites you about the future of the company?
“All of the wonderful creative offering in store. We are pretty excited on behalf of the company about the imminent move to Pier 2/3.”
If you would like to share your story with us about what moves you to support Bell Shakespeare, we would love to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org