Bell Shakespeare's artistic director, Peter Evans, will be turning 49 next year. So there's no half-century to celebrate there.
But the company will mark three significant milestones in 2020.
Bell Shakespeare will be having its 30th anniversary year; its founder, John Bell, will turn 80, and Evans will have been its artistic director for five years.
Next year, Bell Shakepeare will present a tragedy and a comedy, two of Shakespeare's best-known works. Evans will direct the revenge tragedy Hamlet - the play was the company's first production.
And longtime Bell Shakespeare actor and education team member Janine Watson will direct The Comedy of Errors, in which two sets of identical twins separated at birth search for each other, leading to a lot of confusion, while their father Egeon has one day to pay a fine or be executed.
John Bell began the company with the aim of presenting the plays of William Shakespeare in a way that was relevant to and exciting for Australian audiences. It was a success and has expanded over its three decades to include plays by other authors, multi-city tours and education and outreach programs in schools, juvenile justice centres, community halls and Indigenous communities.
The company's second and final production for 2019 is Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Bell Shakespeare's associate director James Evans (no relation to Peter). There are two couples - the constantly bickering Beatrice and Benedick whose friends conspire to bring them together through trickery and the romantic Claudio and Hero, whose love is threatened by the evil Don John's lie that she has been unfaithful.
This production presents the end at the beginning and repeats it in its customary place, Peter Evans says, making the audience think about what has happened in the interim before Claudio and Hero's ostensibly happy marriage. He spurned and denounced her when he believed Don John's lie and she is forced to proclaim her virginity before everyone.
Evans says Shakespeare, in plays such as this and Romeo and Juliet, seems to think that marriage, and abandoning their "boys' clubs", is necessary for young men to mature.
On the subject of a female Hamlet, Evans says there is a history going back more than a century of this Shakespearean role in particular being played by a woman. The French actress Sarah Bernhardt played the role a number of times, beginning in 1899 at the age of 55.
"[She] felt that Hamlet had a lot of feminine qualities."
Unless the role has specific criteria (such as Othello), Evans believes in casting the most talented person suited to the role. He notes that director Anne-Louise Sarks cast Jewish actor Mitchell Butel as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice - "He was interested in exploring it" - although many non-Jewish actors have also played the role.
Evans has a particular interest in gender cross-casting - "It was most fruitful in Richard III," he says, in which Kate Mulvaney played the title role, as a male character.
Similarly, in next year's Hamlet, Harriet Gordon-Anderson, who was in Bell Shakespeare's The Miser, will play the prince as a man. Evans says such casting provides its own particular insights into characters, especially when it comes to misogynistic behaviour
Female characters in the plays tend to have smaller parts and less agency than men, he says, and are often subject to the wills and influence of the male characters. Having a woman play a major "male" role as a man allows the audience as well as the actor to explore different facets of the character - a character's misogyny depicted by a female actor may be seen differently from when a man is playing the same role.
For example, when Mulvaney's Richard was bullying Lady Anne, it came off as "a psychological game of tennis" rather than a man attacking a woman.
Regarding the much-debated issue of whether Hamlet goes genuinely mad or not, Evans thinks it is likely he does.
Hamlet is depressed because his father has died, he says. His mother Gertrude's rapid marriage to Claudius appalls the young man, who, like others at the time, viewed it as incest. And Hamlet, Evans says, is a man of intelligence and rationality and is much affected by seeing a ghost - that of his his father, who demands he kill Claudius, adding to his burden.
"Ophelia feels something has cracked inside him and the scene with his mother is pretty unhinged."
While we aren't witness to Hamlet and Ophelia's earlier love - seeing them only in the present, when he treats her badly - Evans says it is still important that the actors playing them have chemistry so we can sense what their relationship was before and see what it has become.
This production of Hamlet will be set in Denmark in the 1960s, giving the the audience an entry point into a world of style and glamour - Grace Kelly in Monaco was an inspiration.
But the 1960s were also a time of trepidation. The Cold War was in full swing, leading to fears of a nuclear war. There were significant social movements, sometimes perceived as threatening, and Hamlet and his student friends will be seen as a part of this.
Evans says Shakespeare's comedies always contain some darkness - Claudio's treatment of Hero before he learns the truth; Egeon having one day to pay a fine or face execution - and that both the comedies and the tragedies in their different ways are about the disruption and restoration of order in the world.
In the comedies, he says, the influences and actions of society are more pronounced while in the tragedies it is individuals who drive the story and bring about their own downfall.
Both aspects will be seen in the upcoming productions, this year and next.