The Bell Debates

Theatre, Drama
Benjamin Law, Jan Fran and Peter Fitzsimons against a backdrop of skulls wearing crowns
Photograph: Supplied, Daniel Francisco Robles Benjamin Law, Jan Fran and Peter Fitzsimons square off in The Bell Debates

Time Out says

Celebs line up to throw down over the Bard's most famous quotes in this digital celebration of Bell Shakespeare's 30 years

It’s safe to say that Bell Shakespeare’s thirtieth anniversary year hasn’t panned out quite how they anticipated. But putting the minor global shemozzle aside for a hot minute, there was no way they were going to let this milestone slide without some kind of celebration. As Lysander puts it in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

And so the digital curtain raises on The Bell Debates. Kicking off in a suitably spaced corner of Carriageworks, the idea behind the event is rich but simple. The company challenges two teams to tussle over famous Shakespeare quotes as seen through a contemporary lens.

The first head-to-Yorick’s skull pits team captains Benjamin Law and Jane Caro in furious parley over the very 2020-appropriate line “We have seen better days” from As You Like It. They’ll be joined by teammates Jan Fran, Jess Scully and Peter Fitzsimons, with Bell board member Rebecca Huntley moderating, and artistic director Peter Evans hosting. It will be live-streamed on Thursday, September 24 at 7.30pm, with ‘pay what you feel’ tickets up for grabs on the Bell Shakespeare website.

“While we haven’t been able to celebrate our anniversary as planned, it has allowed us to think of new ways to engage our audiences and revisit programs from our archive, like our successful debates from the '90s,” Evans recalls. “We’re delighted to launch this new series to keep Shakespeare and his endlessly relevant words in the forefront of our minds, as profound today as they were 400 years ago.”

Fingers crossed, there will be two more debates to follow in these strange days. Canberra’s National Portrait Gallery is pencilled in for November 12, and then hopefully two Melbourne teams will take up the Bard baton, lockdown-allowing. The show must go on, after all. Or, as Falstaff insists in Henry IV, Part I, “Play out the play. I have much to say…”

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