Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Ideas@theHouse: March 2024

Governor of NSW Crest-Silver and Gold-2020Ideas@theHouse

presented by

Her Excellency the Honourable
Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of NSW

John Bell AO OBE
“Shakespeare on politics — what can we learn”

John Bell AO OBE
Founder and Former Artistic Director
Bell Shakespeare

Date: Wednesday, 6 March 2024, 6.30 – 8.00 pm AEDT
Venue: Face-to-face (by invitation for Society members) and live streaming from Government House Sydney
Video presentation: YouTube video
Entry: No charge
All are welcome to the live stream

Summary: John Bell will present a brief survey of the political scenarios in Shakespeare’s plays - Tragedies, Histories, and even the Comedies in the context of these three questions. How do his observations resonate with us now? What can we take from them to confront the dilemmas we face today?

John Bell is the founder of Bell Shakespeare and one of Australia’s most acclaimed theatre personalities. In a career of acting and directing, John has been instrumental in shaping the Australian theatre industry as we know it. After graduating from Sydney University in 1962, John worked for the Old Tote Theatre Company, all of Australia’s state theatre companies, and was an Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the United Kingdom. As co-founder of Sydney’s Nimrod Theatre Company, John 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 John founded The Bell Shakespeare Company where his productions have included The Winter’s Tale, Much Ado About Nothing, 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 John Webster’s The Duchess Of Malfi, Goldoni’s The Servant Of Two Masters, Gogol’s The Government Inspector and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist. His Shakespeare roles include Hamlet, Shylock, Henry V, Richard III, Macbeth, Malvolio, Berowne, Petruchio, Leontes, Coriolanus, Prospero, King Lear, Titus Andronicus and Falstaff. He played the title role in co-productions with Queensland Theatre Company including: Richard 3, Heiner Müller’s Anatomy Titus Fall Of Rome: A Shakespeare Commentary and performed the role of Mephistopheles, in Faustus. John directed Tosca and Carmen for Opera Australia, The Rake’s Progress for the Victorian Opera and has also directed a production of Madame Butterfly for an Oz Opera national tour. John performed the role of the Professor in Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Uncle Vanya, presented in association with Bell Shakespeare which also toured to Washington and New York. 

John played the leading role in The Father for Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company in late 2017 and directed and starred in Diplomacy for Ensemble Theatre in 2018. He has been touring the country throughout 2018 with Simon Tedeschi in two shows Enoch Arden and Bright Star. John has also appeared in two television series aired in 2019, Diary Of An Uber Driver for ABC and Lambs Of God for Fox Television. In 2019 John played the title role in Moliere’s The Miser for Bell Shakespeare. 2021 saw John in the highly successful Grand Horizons for Sydney Theatre Company and a welcome return season in 2022 at Sydney Theatre. 2022 had John collaborating with Simon Tedeschi on a number of shows around the country including ‘Words And Music’ and ‘With Love, Amadeus’. John also performed his one-man show on Shakespeare ‘One Man In His Time’ in Sydney and Melbourne for Bell Shakespeare as well as another one-man show ‘A Few Of My Favourite Things’ at the Edinburgh Festival. He also featured with the Australian Haydn Ensemble in Haydn Speaks. At the end of 2022, John starred in a production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ for Ensemble Theatre. 2024 will see John appearing at Blackheath Chamber Music Festival as well as with Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Umberto Clerici plus further dates planned with Simon Tedeschi.

John Bell is an Officer of the Order of Australia and the Order of the British Empire. He has an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the Universities of Sydney, New South Wales and Newcastle. In 1997 the National Trust of Australia named him as one of Australia’s Living Treasures. In 2003 the Australia Business Arts Foundation awarded John the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Cultural Leadership Award. His many awards as an actor and director include the Helpmann Award for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor (Richard 3, 2002 &Jaques in As you Like It, 2015) & nominated for Best Support Actor and Best Actor (Uncle Vanya, 2011 and The Father, 2017), a Producers and Directors Guild Award for Lifetime Achievement and the JC Williamson Award (2009) for extraordinary contribution to Australia’s live entertainment industry and the 2010 Sydney Theatre Award for Lifetime Achievement in recognition of his extraordinary career as an actor, director and producer. John is the founder and chair of The Bouddi Foundation for the Arts, based on the NSW Central Coast, dedicated to supporting young artists of all genres.

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