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Bell tolls for Australia’s Shakespeare master?

John Bell, Australia’s landmark interpreter of Shakespeare, will share the artistic reins of his company next year. But he’s not talking retirement yet.

John Bell is adamant he won’t be leaving the stage any time soon. But 22 years after founding Bell Shakespeare, he’s relinquished part of his artistic director role and asked Peter Evans to join him in leading the company.

“This doesn’t mean I’m going anywhere in a hurry,” Bell moved to reassure a media event in Sydney on Thursday upon naming his new co-artistic director. “It’s a statement of confidence in the company’s longevity for the future, and it’s a statement about our succession plan so that when I do decide to move on there will be a smooth transition.”

Bell says it’s also a show of the faith he has in 41-year-old Evans, who joined the company two years ago as an associate artistic director from the Melbourne Theatre Company.

“I’m a bit emotional about it, and a little bit proud,” Evans said. “As you can imagine when John Bell asks you to join his company it’s a big deal, let alone when he asks you to share the job with him!”

The move will also allow Bell to take the director’s chair while playing the part of Falstaff in Bell Shakespeare’s mainstage production of William Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Damien Ryan will assist in directing the play which opens in February, and also stars Matthew Moore and Sean Taylor.

Evans will direct the mainstage production of the Greek tragedy Phedre, running from May to June.

Bell Shakespeare’s third major 2013 production is The Comedy of Errors, directed by Imara Savage and performed across the country at 32 venues from June to December.

Savage served as Bell’s 2011 resident director. “It’s funny because comedy terrifies me,” she said on directing the Shakespeare piece. “This is my first main stage gig ever. So having a budget’s exciting. Having actors who are not working for free is also exciting.”

Other changes at the company include the appointment of Bronwyn Edinger, who took up the role of general manager six weeks ago.

The details: More details and subscription packages for Bell Shakespeare’s 2013 season on the company website.

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