When John Bell founded Bell Shakespeare in 1990, it was an audacious idea to run an Australian company dedicated to the Bard. The company took its first tentative steps in productions of Hamletand The Merchant of Venicein a circus tent in the Sydney Showgrounds, now the Entertainment Quarter. It wasn’t the most auspicious beginning – the tent was sweltering hot, the sightlines weren’t great, and the acting was uneven.
Many wondered if the company would see out the year. For the next five years, it was touch and go. But here the company is, celebrating its 30th year with Peter Evans now the Artistic Director, having taken over from Bell when he left in 2015.
Harriet Gordon-Anderson will play Hamlet. Photograph supplied
Evans didn’t see Bell Shakespeare’s inaugural productions – he first met Bell when he left NIDA at the end of 1995. “But I’ve obviously heard a great deal of stories about that time and the unlikely nature of this experiment John had embarked on. It does feel extraordinary that it’s now 30 years,” he tells Limelight.