Introducing QSE

The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble (QSE) was founded in 2001. Since its inception QSE has gained a reputation for energetic, accessible and unique productions of Shakespeare's plays.

Read our 2017 Annual Report here (PDF, 15MB).


We use Shakespeare as a platform for positive change.


Ruby Drewery as Hamlet holding dagger (2008). Photo by Angel Kosch.

The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble exists to bring the language of Shakespeare to communities. QSE strives to strengthen the connections between and within communities by:

  • sharing epic and eternal stories with a live audience
  • creating evocative, engaging experiences in communities
  • making Shakespeare accessible to all
  • giving a voice to the marginalised
  • reflecting the contemporary human condition
  • developing an Ensemble of Artist managers
  • inspiring a collaborative artistic and business environment

Core Beliefs

We believe that Shakespeare's language demands an intense intellectual-emotional-physical-spiritual connection, and is the ultimate actor training and community building tool. Created when theatre was a rhythmic, physical, and aural experience, Shakespeare's plays insist on a whole-body relationship to words, challenging those who perform them to act boldly and speak with passion.

We believe that performance is most potent when it is embodied by actors who train together, exchanging skills and experiences, and sharing a sense of belonging with one another. We consider the human voice to be the ultimate vehicle for embodied expression and communal exploration.

We believe in the principles of Ensemble Theatre, and seek to develop a team of artist-managers who create an inspirational artistic and business environment to which others aspire.

Although the Ensemble performs the works of other playwrights and authors, Shakespeare will always be the home from which we travel.

Click here for Artistic Director Rob Pensalfini's 2007 ETAQ State Conference Keynote Address entitled "Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say" — Shakespeare and the Capacity to Sustain Complexity.


The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble operates with the following values at the heart of our work.

  • Community: Strengthen connections and relationships, growing people together
  • Collaboration: Working together to achieve with courage, compassion and generosity
  • Integrity: Doing what is right
  • Communication: Actively listening, sharing information and ideas
  • Respect: Appreciating our differences and valuing each other
  • Growth: Seeking ways to develop our potential
  • Recognition: Celebrating each other's efforts and achievements
  • Quality: Disciplined process in the pursuit of excellence
  • Play: Making an enjoyable and exciting place to work


Half-hour Hamlet cast (2008). Photo by Angel Kosch.

QSEwas established in 2001 by a small group of theatre artists united by their desire to perform and present Shakespeare's plays in an accessible and engaging manner. The Core Ensemble was established in 2003 as a way of making manifest QSE's commitment to ensemble principles and to ongoing training, and in order to make it possible for the artsits themselves to retain control of the organisation as it grew. The QSE Apprentice Program began in 2007 as a way of extending the company's methodologies to developing artists, combining QSE training programs with hands-on experience in the running of an independent theatre company.

The Ensemble first appeared in public with several staged readings, followed by a few adventurous full productions, at the historic Avalon Theatre in St Lucia. After the Avalon closed at the end of 2004, the company trained out of !Metro Arts in the Brisbane CBD and performed in a variety of venues around the city. It was during this period, in 2007, that QSE first began its celebrated outdoor performances in Roma Street Parkland, which have since been an annual fixture of Brisbane's spring season.

In 2006, QSE seized the energy of the World Shakespeare Congress, hosted in Brisbane, by performing well over a dozen Shakespeare's Shorts (Half-hour Hamlet, Instant Romeo & Juliet, and Pyramus & Thisby) for festivals, libraries and schools and Shakespeare's Briefs -or- Let's Kill All the Lawyers! (presided over by actual judges) in the Banco Court. The Congress also made it possible for QSE to commence its renowned Shakespeare Prison Program. This was the year that first saw QSE artists paid for a significant proportion of their work. Actors were paid for performing in Shakespeare's Shorts and received a share of profits for other performances. Facilitators were paid for leading workshops, including the Shakespeare Prison Project. These practices continue today.

In 2010, QSE once again found a permanent physical base, at the Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio at the University of Queensland, maintaining an office and training/meeting space there. This has also allowed the company to produce more experimental works, billed as Workshop Productions, which allow us to explore new scripts, styles, and/or techniques.

QSE maintains strong links with international artists including Shakespeare & Company (USA), Kristin Linklater (UK), Shakespeare Behind Bars (USA), and Second Thought Theatre (USA). In 2011 and 2015, the Founding Director of Shakespeare Behind Bars, Curt Tofteland, came to Brisbane to direct QSE productions

Past Productions

Meet the Ensemble