In January 1991, Bell Shakespeare took to the stage for the first time, choosing a circus tent in the Sydney Showgrounds (now the Entertainment Quarter) as its inaugural venue. The opening production was Hamlet, directed by John Bell, with John Polson in the title role, which played in repertoire with The Merchant of Venice, directed by Carol Woodrow with Bell as Shylock.

Lisa McCune and Harriet Gordon-Anderson in rehearsal for Bell Shakespeare's Hamlet Lisa McCune and Harriet Gordon-Anderson in rehearsal for Bell Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Photo © Brett Boardman

It wasn’t the most auspicious beginning. The tent was swelteringly hot, the sightlines weren’t great, and the acting was uneven. Many wondered if the company would see out the year, but here it is celebrating its 30th anniversary year.

Now led by Peter Evans as Artistic Director, the 2020 season begins, as that first season did, with Hamlet, directed by Evans – but this time the Prince of Denmark is played by a woman, Harriet Gordon-Anderson (though the character remains male).

Playing Hamlet’s mother Gertrude is Lisa McCune, who is making her Shakespearean debut. McCune studied musical theatre at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). After...

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