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 The Government 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