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, ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA, THE COMED 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 and is playing the role of Andre in THE FATHER for STC/MTC in 2017.
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 two Helpmann Awards for Best Actor (Richard 3, 2002 & Jaques in As you Like It, 2015), 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.