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The Bard unbound

Richard Watts

Students unable to attend Bell Shakespeare productions can now access performances and actors’ commentaries online.
The Bard unbound

Shakespeare Unbound: The Tempest featuring Miranda Tapsell and John Bell. Image supplied.

Shakespeare Unbound is a new Bell Shakespeare initiative presented in partnership with online education portal ABC Splash, and featuring 12 free videos featuring scenes from six of Shakespeare’s most famous plays: Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and The Tempest.

The actors wear contemporary dress in each scene, and the settings are spartan and industrial, emphasising the universal themes of the Bard’s plays and ensuring their accessibility for contemporary students.


These videos are paired with 12 video commentaries from the director James Evans and cast members, including John Bell, Kate Mulvany, Eryn-Jean Norvill, Hazem Shammas, Damien Strouthos and Miranda Tapsell, which unpack and explore the meaning of each scene, and the plays overall.

Shakespeare Unbound will complement Bell Shakespeare’s existing education performance program, which reaches around 80,000 students annually, and is especially designed with regional and remote audiences in mind.

Mark Scott, ABC Managing Director, said: ‘Bell Shakespeare’s work in schools across Australia is well known and now every school in Australia will be able to see some of Australia’s best actors bring Shakespeare to life in a way I am sure will leave a lasting impression. It’s an exciting initiative and I think shows that we are entering an exciting era for digital education that will empower both teachers and students.’

Joanna Erskine, Head of Education at Bell Shakespeare, said the company’s 24-year history of touring Shakespeare’s work to Australian schools had made them well aware of the need for accessible, high quality resources.

‘Particularly those in regional and remote areas are constantly telling us that they wish they could show their students how Shakespeare is meant to sound, how it should be performed. They want accessible Australian content that is clear and contemporary,’ she explained.

Angela Clark, Director of Innovation at the ABC, which delivers the education website ABC Splash, said: ‘Created specifically for the digital education space, “Shakespeare Unbound” gives all Australian students and teachers the same opportunity, regardless of geographic location, to engage with high quality and curriculum relevant content. ABC Splash is thrilled to be able to partner with Bell Shakespeare to produce such compelling content for this audience.’

James Evans, Shakespeare Unbound director, added: ‘The 24 videos are of the highest quality, packed with incredible insights from the actors themselves, as well as Bell Shakespeare Co-Artistic Director, John Bell. This is unique, premium, Australian content featuring stimulating discussion suitable for classroom study.’ 

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's national performing arts editor and Deputy Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R. The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the boards of La Mama Theatre and the journal Going Down Swinging; he is also a member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, and a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardthewatts