Samuel West

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For other uses, see Samuel West (disambiguation).
Samuel West
Samuel West at the London Film Festival screening of Hyde Park on Hudson, October 2012.jpg
Samuel West at the London Film Festival screening of Hyde Park on Hudson, October 2012
Born Samuel Alexander Joseph West
(1966-06-19) 19 June 1966 (age 48)
Hammersmith, London, England, United Kingdom[1]
Nationality British
Occupation Actor and director
Years active 1975–present
Partner(s) Laura Wade
Parent(s) Timothy West
Prunella Scales

Samuel Alexander Joseph West, also known as Sam West (born 19 June 1966),[2] is an English actor and director. He is perhaps best known for his role in the film Howards End and his work on stage (including the award-winning play Enron).

Early life and education[edit]

West was born in Hammersmith, west London, the elder son of actors Prunella Scales and Timothy West and the grandson of the late actor Lockwood West. He was educated at Alleyn's School and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where he studied English Literature[3] and was president of the Experimental Theatre Club.[4]


West works as an actor in a variety of dramatic media including theatre, film, television and radio.[5] He has also made a career as a director on stage and radio.[6] West has narrated many television documentaries, including the acclaimed series The Nazis: A Warning from History. He often appears as reciter with orchestras (see below) and performed at the Last Night of the Proms in 2002.[7]


West made his London stage debut in February 1989 at the Orange Tree Theatre, playing Michael in Cocteau's Les Parents Terribles, of which critic John Thaxter wrote: "He invests the role with a warmth and validity that silences sniggers that could so easily greet a lesser performance of this difficult role, and he lets us share the tumbling emotions of a juvenile torn between romantic first love and filial duty." (Richmond & Twickenham Times, 10 February 1989). Since then, West has appeared frequently on stage; he played Valentine in the first ever production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia at the National Theatre in 1993 and later spent two seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company playing the title roles in Richard II and Hamlet, both directed by Steven Pimlott.[8]

In 2002, West made his stage directorial debut with The Lady's Not for Burning at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester.[9] He was appointed artistic director of Sheffield Theatres - succeeding Michael Grandage - in 2005.[10] During his time as artistic director West revived the controversial The Romans in Britain[11] and also directed As You Like It as part of the RSC's Complete Works Festival. West left Sheffield when the theatre closed for refurbishment in 2007 and made his West End directorial debut with the first major revival of Dealer's Choice following its transferral to the Trafalgar Studios.[12] He also continued his acting career: in 2007 he appeared alongside Toby Stephens and Dervla Kirwan in Betrayal at the Donmar Warehouse, in November 2008 he played Harry in the Donmar revival of T. S. Eliot's Family Reunion [13] and in 2009 he starred as Jeffrey Skilling in Enron by Lucy Prebble.[14] His 2008 production of Waste at the Almeida Theatre was chosen by The Times as one of its "Productions of the Decade". From November 2012 to January 2013 he appeared as Astrov in a production of Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre.[15]


In 1991, West played the lower-middle-class clerk Leonard Bast in the Merchant Ivory film adaptation of E. M. Forster's novel Howards End (released 1992) opposite Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Anthony Hopkins. For this role, he was nominated for best supporting actor at the 1993 BAFTA Film Awards.[16] Two years later he again appeared with Thompson in the film Carrington. His film career has continued with roles in a number of well known films, such as Zeffirelli's Jane Eyre, Notting Hill, Iris and Van Helsing. In 2004, he appeared in the year's highest rated mini-series on German television, Die Nibelungen, which was released in the United States in 2006 as Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King. In 2012 he played King George VI in Hyde Park on Hudson.


He is a familiar face on television appearing in many long-running series: Midsomer Murders, Waking the Dead and Poirot as well as one-off dramas. He played Anthony Blunt in Cambridge Spies, a BBC production about the four British spies, starring alongside Toby Stephens (Philby), Tom Hollander (Burgess) and Rupert Penry-Jones (Maclean). In 2006 he took the lead role in a BBC production of Random Quest adapted from the short story by John Wyndham and the next year played Ted Heath in Margaret Thatcher - The Long Walk to Finchley, also for the BBC. In 2010 he played Peter Scabius in the televised adaptation of William Boyd's novel Any Human Heart, while in 2011 he starred as Zak Gist in the ITV series Eternal Law. In addition, he appeared in the BBC Series "As Time Goes By" (1994) episode titled "We'll Always Have Paris" playing the character named Terry.

He plays Frank Edwards in the ITV drama Mr Selfridge.


West is regularly heard on radio as a reader or reciter and has performed in many radio dramas, including Otherkin by Laura Wade, Present Laughter by Noël Coward,[17] Len Deighton's Bomber, Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, Michael Frayn's Here and The Homecoming as Lenny to Harold Pinter's Max.[18] In 2011 he made his radio directing debut with a production of Money[19] by Edward Bulwer-Lytton on BBC Radio 3.

Personal life[edit]

Samuel West at the No Glory protest, London, 4th August 2014
Samuel West wearing a Peace Pledge Union poppy at the No Glory protest, London, 4th August 2014

West has appeared alongside his actor parents on several occasions; with his mother Prunella Scales in Howards End and Stiff Upper Lips, and with his father Timothy West on stage in A Number, Henry IV Part I and Part II. In two films (Iris (2001) and the 1996 television film Over Here). Sam and his father have played the same character at different ages. In 2002 all three family members performed in Stravinsky's The Soldiers Tale at the St Magnus Festival on Orkney[20] and in 2006 they gave a rehearsed reading of the Harold Pinter play Family Voices as part of the Sheffield Theatres Pinter season.[21]

West became the patron of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus in February 2008, having been the narrator for a concert of theirs in February 2002.[22] He is also a patron of London children's charity Scene & Heard,[23] Eastside Educational Trust and Mousetrap Theatre projects.

While at university, West was a member of the Socialist Workers Party and later briefly the Socialist Alliance.[24] West has been a left-wing activist for many years; he was a critic of Tony Blair's New Labour government.[25] On 26 March 2011 he spoke at the TUC March for the Alternative.[26]

Samuel West has written essays on Richard II for the Cambridge University Press series Players of Shakespeare,[27] on Hamlet for Michael Dobson's CUP study Performing Shakespeare's Tragedies Today[28] and on Shakespeare and Love[29] and Voice and Radio[30] for BBC Radio 3.

He has also published articles on Harold Pinter,[31][32] on Caryl Churchill [33] and on the Shipping Forecast.[34] He frequently writes and speaks in public about arts funding.[35]

In 2013 he was one of the judges for the Forward Prizes for Poetry. In December 2014, he appeared on two programmes for Christmas University Challenge,[36] as part of a team of alumni from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.[37]

West is an Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company,[38] Chair of the National Campaign for the Arts and a member of the council of the British Actors' Union, Equity.[39] He is a keen birdwatcher.[40]

In 2007 West moved in with playwright Laura Wade,[41] but in 2011 the couple temporarily split up.[42][43][44] In 2013 West was cast in a minor role in The Riot Club, the film version of Wade’s hit play, Posh and in 2014 the couple had a daughter.[45]



He has also narrated nine Timewatch documentary films for the director Jonathan Gili, four seasons of the series The Private Life of a Masterpiece and five BBC documentary series for producer Laurence Rees:






Audiobooks, reciting and work with musicians[edit]

West has recorded over fifty audiobooks, among which are the Shakespeare plays All's Well That Ends Well, Coriolanus, Henry V, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard II and Macbeth (directed by Steven Berkoff), the Wind on Fire trilogy by William Nicholson (The Wind Singer, Slaves of the Mastery and Firesong), the Arthur trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland (The Seeing Stone, At the Crossing Places and King of the Middle March), five books by Sebastian Faulks (Charlotte Gray, Birdsong, The Girl at the Lion d'Or, Human Traces and A Possible Life), four by Michael Ridpath (Trading Reality, Final Venture, Free to Trade, and The Marketmaker), two by George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four and Homage to Catalonia), two by Mary Wesley (An Imaginative Experience and Part of the Furniture), two by Robert Goddard (Closed Circle and In Pale Battalions) and several compilations of poetry (Realms of Gold: Letters and Poems of John Keats, Bright Star, The Collected Works of Shelley, Seven Ages, Great Narrative Poems of the Romantic Age and A Shropshire Lad). Also Faust, Bomber, Doctor Who: The Vengeance of Morbius, Empire of the Sun, Brighton Rock, Fair Stood the Wind for France, Fluke, Great Speeches in History, How Proust Can Change Your Life, Lady Windermere's Fan, Peter Pan, The Alchemist, The Day of the Triffids, The Hairy Hands, The Lives of Christopher Chant, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, The Queen's Man, The Solitaire Mystery, The Swimming Pool Library, The Two Destinies, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Way I Found Her, The Way to Dusty Death, The Woodlanders, Under the Net, Wuthering Heights and Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales for Young and Old.

In June 2012, West recorded an English narration of The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My by Tove Jansson for an interactive audiobook developed by Spinfy and published by Sort of Books.

In May 2015, West's reading of Brighton Rock was chosen as one of 'The 20 best audiobooks of all time' by Carole Mansur of the Daily Telegraph.[47]

As a reciter West has worked with all the major British orchestras, as well as the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.. Works include Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and The Soldier's Tale, Prokofiev's Eugene Onegin, Beethoven's Egmont, Schoenburg's Ode To Napoleon, Strauss' Enoch Arden, Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, Bernstein's Kaddish, Walton's Façade and Henry V, Night Mail and The Way to the Sea by Britten and Auden, the world premieres of Concrete by Judith Weir at the Barbican and Howard Goodall’s Jason and the Argonauts at the Royal Albert Hall and the UK premiere of Jonathan Harvey's final piece Weltethos at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham.[48] In 2007 West made his New York recital debut in the first performance of Little Red Violin by Anne Dudley and Steven Isserlis. In November 2010, West performed a new English translation of Grieg's complete incidental music to Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt with the Southampton Philharmonic Choir at Southampton Guildhall.[49] He has performed at the Proms six times,[50] including the suite version of Henry V at the 2002 Last Night of the Proms.

He has also appeared with the Nash Ensemble, the Raphael Ensemble, The Hebrides Ensemble, Ensemble 360 and the Lindsay, Dante and Endellion Quartets at the Wigmore Hall, London. Recordings include Prokofief's Eugene Onegin with Sinfonia 21 and Edward Downes,[51] Salad Days and Walton's Henry V with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin.[52]

As a choral singer, West has participated in three Choir of London tours to Palestine: in May 2006, when he also gave poetry readings as part of the concert programme; in April 2007 when he directed The Magic Flute.[53] and in September 2013 (see below).

In 2013, the centenary year of Benjamin Britten, West narrated the Britten/Auden film score Night Mail with the Nash Ensemble at the Wigmore Hall and later added Coal Face, God’s Chillun, The Peace of Britain, The Way to the Sea and The King’s Stamp with the Aurora Orchestra at the Queen Elizabeth and Fairfield Halls.[54] In June he played God in Britten’s Noye’s Fludde in Harrogate.[55] In July he appeared in a Proms Plus broadcast discussing Britten’s setting of poetry. In September he toured Palestine with the Choir of London as staff director of a new opera based on Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia and sang in Britten’s St Nicolas.[56] In October, he narrated the concert world premiere of Britten in America for the Hallé orchestra, which was released on CD [57] together with West’s recordings of speeches to Britten’s incidental music for Auden and Isherwood’s play The Ascent of F6 (the disc, Britten to America, was later nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Classical Compendium).[58] He also toured a program of Britten cabaret songs and Auden poems across the UK with Ruthie Culver and the UtterJazz Quartet.[59]

In June 2013 he appeared in the video for Handyman Blues by Billy Bragg, directed by Johnny Vegas.[60]

Awards and nominations[edit]

As actor

As reader

Samuel West has received nine AudioFile Earphones Awards for his narration: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1996), Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie (1997), Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks (1999), The Way I Found Her by Rose Tremain (2000), The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst (2007), Faust by Goethe (2011), A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman (2011), A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks (2012) and Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales for Young and Old (2013) [61]

As director


  1. ^ BFI biodata
  2. ^ BFI biodata
  3. ^ "LMH, Oxford - Prominent Alumni". Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Who's Who 2013 (ISBN13: 9781408154915) p2420
  5. ^ Samuel West CV at United Agents
  6. ^ Guardian interview 2007
  7. ^ BBC Proms Last Night 2002
  8. ^ Steven Pimlott obituary from The Guardian
  9. ^ United Agents Directing CV
  10. ^ Daily Telegraph
  11. ^ Independent interview with Samuel West about The Romans in Britain
  12. ^ Review of Dealer's Choice from the New York Times
  13. ^ The Stage review of The Family Reunion
  14. ^ The Daily Telegraph review of ENRON
  15. ^ Evening Standard review of Uncle Vanya
  16. ^ BAFTA Awards archive
  17. ^ Present Laughter on BBC Radio 4
  18. ^ Guardian article by Samuel West about working with Pinter on The Homecoming
  19. ^ Money on BBC Radio 3
  20. ^ The Scotsman review of The Soldier's Tale
  21. ^ Pinter's Family Voices at the Crucible
  22. ^ Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus website
  23. ^ "Scene & Heard - Who We Are". 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-19. 
  24. ^ Profile in The Guardian 16 September 2005
  25. ^ CND/Stop The War protest at the Chilcot Enquiry
  26. ^ Speech at the TUC March for the Alternative, 26 March 2011
  27. ^ Stanford University Library: Players of Shakespeare 6
  28. ^ Stanford University Library: Performing Shakespeare's Tragedies Today
  29. ^ BBC Radio 3 The Essay: Shakespeare and Love", Samuel West
  30. ^ BBC Radio 3, Shaping the Air
  31. ^ Harold Pinter 1930-2008 by Samuel West from Socialist Review
  32. ^ Guardian article by Samuel West about working with Pinter on The Homecoming
  33. ^ Caryl Churchill: the David Bowie of contemporary theatre, The Daily Telegraph 23 April 2015
  34. ^ Malin, Dogger, North Utsire? Bliss by Samuel West, The Daily Telegraph, 16 Feb 2012
  35. ^ Samuel West speeches on Arts Funding at artsfunding.ning
  36. ^ BBC Christmas University Challenge graduate line-up
  37. ^ Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford vs The University of Warwick, YouTube
  38. ^ RSC Annual Report: List of Associate Artists
  39. ^ Equity Council 2012-2014
  40. ^ Ramblings (BBC Radio 4): Clare Balding and Samuel West walk Rainham Marshes RSPB
  41. ^ Guardian interview with Samuel West by Rachel Cooke, 25 November 2007
  42. ^ Telegraph, 1 Jan 2012
  43. ^ Get West London, 18 October 2012
  44. ^ The Guardian, Saturday 10 December 2011
  45. ^ Guardian article about The Riot Club
  46. ^ Billington, Michael (2 March 2005). "Insignificance Lyceum, Sheffield". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  47. ^ 20 best audiobooks of all time, The Daily Telegraph 8 May 2015
  48. ^ New York Times article about Weltethos
  49. ^ Southampton Philharmonic Choir website
  50. ^ BBC Proms: performances by Samuel West
  51. ^ Stanford University Library: Prokofiev's Eugene Onegin
  52. ^ Stanford University Library: Walton's Henry V
  53. ^ The Magic Flute at the Palestine Mozart Festival
  54. ^ Inside Croydon: West takes on impossible job without pausing for breath
  55. ^ Noye’s Fludde at Harrogate Grammar School
  56. ^ Sinfini Music blog "London Choir on West Bank", 3 October 2013
  57. ^ Britten to America: Halle/Elder
  58. ^ 57th Annual Grammy nominees
  59. ^ Look, Stranger by the UtterJazz quartet
  60. ^ Handyman Blues by Billy Bragg
  61. ^ Audiofile Reader Page for Samuel West

External links[edit]