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. 2020 will see John collaborating on a new show with Simon Tedeschi, Echoes Of The Jazz Age.
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.
Georgia Browne - Historical Flute
Flautist Georgia Browne began her musical life in Perth, Western Australia where she was given the opportunity to try replica historical flutes. Following an inspiring week of masterclasses with compatriot Kate Clark, Georgia decided to make the pilgrimage to The Netherlands to specialise in historical flute performance with Kate and later Barthold Kuijken. Just after graduating with distinction from the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, Georgia was launched onto the European concert scene in style, with an exciting performance of a Vivaldi flute concerto for live radio broadcast at the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome.
Since that momentous debut in 2004, Georgia has been in demand as a soloist, orchestral musician and guest tutor across Europe, Asia and Australia. She is currently first flute with Ensemble Pygmalion (Raphaël Pichon) with whom she has had on-stage solos at the Opera Comique in Paris and Aix en Provence opera festival. In the UK she regularly appears in concert with Arcangelo (Jonathan Cohen), La Nuova Musica (David Bates), the Dunedin Consort (John Butt), The English Concert (Harry Bickett) and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Invitations from further afield include guest appearances with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Australian Romantic Classical Orchestra (Richard Gill) and Capella Cracoviensis (Jan Tomasz Adamus) as well as concerto performances with the Bratislava Mozart Orchestra and the Georgian Sinfonietta. Her album of flute music by Carl Friedrich Abel with Icelandic chamber ensemble Nordic Affect is one of a number of recordings she has featured on.
An enthusiastic educator, Georgia has taught at the Universities of Southampton and Birmingham and gives masterclasses all over the world from Scotland to Slovakia to New South Wales. Each year she hosts a residential Baroque Flute Summer School in France.
Tom Foster - Harpsichord
Alongside numerous chamber music partnerships with singers and instrumentalists, Tom is also a respected solo recitalist. As an orchestral player he has performed with The English Concert, the Scottish Ensemble, Britten Sinfonia, La Nuova Musica, the BBC Singers, Arcangelo, St. James’s Baroque, Early Opera Company, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. As a coach and conductor, Tom has directed concert performances for Opera Settecento and has been assistant conductor for opera seasons at Garsington, Buxton and Iford, working with Jonathan Cohen, Laurence Cummings and Christian Curnyn. He directed the music for the inaugural show at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Tom holds a first-class honours degree in Music from St. Catherine’s College, Oxford and gained a Distinction in Performance from the Royal Academy of Music under the guidance of Trevor Pinnock.
Sophie Gent - Violin
Sophie Gent was born in Perth, Western Australia. After completing a Bachelor’s degree she pursued further studies at the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague with Ryo Terakado, completing her Master’s degree with distinction in 2005. In 2002 she was awarded first prize in two chamber music competitions: the International Van Wassenaer Competition (The Netherlands) and the International Premio Bonporti Concours (Italy), with the ensemble Opera Quarta. Their first recording, of trio sonatas by Jean-Marie Leclair, was awarded a Diapason d’Or in July 2007.
Sophie is active as a soloist and chamber musician, performing and recording frequently as concertmaster with the Ricercar Consort, Il Gardellino, Capriccio Stravagante, Les Muffatti, Ensemble Masques and also as a member of the period instrument string quartet Mito dell’Arco, based in Japan. She was appointed Professor of Baroque violin at the Amsterdam Conservatorium in 2011 and regularly coaches chamber music at the Early Music Department Conservatorium in Antwerp. Recent recordings include Harp Consorts by William Lawes and Concerti Grossi by Johann Christoph Pez with Les Muffatti.
Laura Vaughan - Viola da Gamba
Melbourne-based viola da gamba specialist Laura Vaughan is a dynamic and well-recognised member of the early music movement in Australia. Following her return from studies at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, she has established an active performing career on viol and violone, encompassing a wide range of solo and chamber repertoire across Australasia. Passionate about the unique sound world of the viol, Laura is committed to bringing this exquisite repertoire to audiences around the world through music both old and new. She is also one of the few exponents of the rare lirone.
Laura can be heard regularly on ABC Classic FM as a soloist and chamber musician and appears on numerous CD recordings, including solo recordings for the Move and Paladino labels. In addition to solo performances, she works with many Australian early music ensembles including the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Orchestra of the Antipodes, Adelaide Baroque, Accademia Arcadia, Consortium and is a founding member of the multiple ARIA award nominated trio Latitude 37. Laura has appeared with Tasmanian and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras, and Auckland Philharmonia. When not playing the viol, Laura can usually be found in a park with her two young children, her Tibetan Spaniels Abelard and Heloise, and almost certainly a good Melbourne coffee.
Ruth Wilkinson - Recorder/Viol
Ruth Wilkinson is very active as a recorder, viol and violone player and over her varied career has toured extensively throughout Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Europe. She has a diverse discography of some 20 CD recordings which document Ruth’s musical life from medieval and renaissance music with La Romanesca, to the baroque with the trio Capella Corelli and Cynthia O’Brien, Ludovico’s Band and the 21st century with Trio Avium. Most recently she has begun collaborating with The Recorder Co-op, and the viol ensemble Consortium and Auncient Hermony with Vivien Hamilton.
Ruth studied early music at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Switzerland with Hans-Martin Linde and Jordi Savall and has taught recorder and Historical Performance Practice and early music ensembles for many years at the University of Melbourne. In 2012 she was made an honorary associate of the Monash University School of Music. She has taught a generation of talented professional recorder players.