The lengthy subtitle: “Lessons on leadership and characterfrom Shakespeare and one of his greatest admirers”, is a clue to both the book and the mind of John Bell – actor, director and impresario, whose life is inextricably linked with William Shakespeare and modern Australian theatre.Curious then, that the publisher (presumably) felt the need for effusive cover blurbs from “names”. Not that these names – David Williamson, Hugh Mackay and Jane Caro – are to be sneezed at; each is a splendid representative of their fields, but as a leader on leading, Bell needs no fulsome spruiks.

John Bell

The same can be said of brilliant political cartoonist, Cathy Wilcox, whose work punctuates the book and opensit with an exquisitely painful illustration. It’s headed: “Enter a Beggar . . .” and a bedraggled thespian holds out his hat and asks, “Fund my theatre company, sire?” It sayseverything about Australian theatre and Australian politicians’ attitude to the arts. Basically, artists have really not yet cottoned on to how much most politicians loathe and fear the arts, and most...