Simon Russell Beale

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Simon Russell Beale
Simon Russell Beale and Roger Wright.jpg
Beale (left) and Roger Wright
Born (1961-01-12) 12 January 1961 (age 53)
Penang, Malaya
Alma mater Cambridge University
Occupation Actor
Years active 1988–present

Simon Russell Beale, CBE (born 12 January 1961) is a Malay-born English actor and music historian. He has been described by The Independent as "the greatest stage actor of his generation."[1] He has appeared in Persuasion (1995), The Young Visiters (2003), Dunkirk (2004), The Deep Blue Sea and as Falstaff in the BBC made-for-television films Henry IV, Part I and Part II (2012).

Early years[edit]

Beale was born to Lieutenant-General Sir Peter Beale, and Julia Winter in Penang, Malaya, where his father served as a physician, later going on to become Surgeon General of the British Armed Forces.[2] Several members of his family had careers in medicine. He was first drawn to performance when, at the age of eight, he became a chorister at St. Paul's Cathedral, and a pupil at the adjoining St Paul's Cathedral School.

Aged 14 he gave his first theatre performance playing Desdemona in Othello at the independent school Clifton College's Redgrave Theatre; in the sixth form he also performed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a play in which he would later star at the National Theatre. After Clifton, he went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and obtained a first in English, after which he was offered a place to do a PhD. He graduated from Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1983.

Career[edit]

Beale first came to the attention of theatre-goers in the late 1980s with a series of lauded comic performances, on occasion extremely camp, in such plays as The Man of Mode by George Etherege and Restoration by Edward Bond at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He broadened his range in the early 1990s with moving performances as Konstantin in Chekhov's The Seagull, as Oswald in Ibsen's Ghosts, Ferdinand in The Duchess of Malfi and as Edgar in King Lear. It was at the RSC that he first worked with Sam Mendes who directed him there as Thersites in Troilus and Cressida, as Richard III and as a striking Ariel in The Tempest, in the last of which he revealed a fine tenor voice.

Sam Mendes also directed him as Iago in Othello at the Royal National Theatre and in Mendes' farewell productions at the Donmar Warehouse in 2002, Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, in which he played the title role, and Twelfth Night, in which Beale played Malvolio. He won the 2003 Laurence Olivier Award for Uncle Vanya.

Since 1995 he has been a regular at the National Theatre where his roles have included Mosca in Ben Jonson's Volpone opposite Michael Gambon, George in Tom Stoppard's Jumpers and the lead in Humble Boy by Charlotte Jones written especially for him.

In 1997 he portrayed the pivotal role of Kenneth Widmerpool in a television adaptation of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, for which he won the Best Actor award at the British Academy Television Awards in 1998.

In 1999 he was a key part of Trevor Nunn's ensemble, playing in Leonard Bernstein's Candide, Edward Bulwer Lytton's Money and Maxim Gorky's Summerfolk at the National. In autumn 2006 he played Galileo in David Hare's adaption of Brecht's Life of Galileo and as Face in The Alchemist. From December 2007 to March 2008 he played Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing directed by Nicholas Hytner and from February to July 2008, he played Andrew Undershaft in Hytner's production of Shaw's Major Barbara; he then appeared in Harold Pinter's A Slight Ache and Landscape.

In 2005, Beale was directed by Deborah Warner as Cassius in Julius Caesar alongside Ralph Fiennes as Antony. That same year, he played the title role in Macbeth at the Almeida Theatre. In 2007 he reprised his 2005 Broadway role as King Arthur in the Monty Python musical Spamalot at the Palace Theatre, London.

In 2008 he made his début as a television presenter, fronting the BBC Four series Sacred Music with Harry Christophers and The Sixteen about Western church music. A second series was broadcast on BBC Four in Spring 2010.

In the spring of 2009, Beale and Sam Mendes collaborated on The Winter's Tale and The Cherry Orchard, in which Beale played Leontes and Lopakhin respectively, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, later transferring to the Old Vic Theatre.[3][4]

From 2009–2010 he played George Smiley in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of all the John le Carré novels in which Smiley featured. These were aired in nineteen 90-minute or 60-minute full cast radio plays.[5]

From March to June 2010, he played Sir Harcourt Courtly in London Assurance, again at the National. In August 2010 he appeared in the first West End revival of Deathtrap by Ira Levin. In March 2011 he made his debut with The Royal Ballet in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In October 2011 he returned to the National to star as Joseph Stalin in the premiere of Collaborators, for which he won Best Actor at the 2012 Evening Standard Awards.

More recently, Beale was cast as the Coalition Home Secretary, William Towers, in the two final series of BBC One's spy drama, Spooks.[6]

He played the title role in Timon of Athens at the National Theatre from July to October 2012. The production was broadcast to cinemas around the world on 1 November 2012 through the National Theatre Live programme.[7] He starred in a revival of Peter Nichols' Privates on Parade as part of Michael Grandage's new West End season at the Noel Coward Theatre from December 2012 to March 2013.[8]

In 2013 he won the British Academy Television Award (BAFTA) for Supporting actor for his performance as Falstaff in the BBC's The Hollow Crown series of TV films about Shakespeare's historical dramas Richard II; Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; and Henry V.[9]

He appeared alongside John Simm in Harold Pinter's The Hothouse at the Trafalgar Studios from May to August 2013, directed by Jamie Lloyd.[10]

In January 2014 he played the title role in King Lear at the National Theatre, directed once again by Sam Mendes.[11]

Personal life[edit]

He is president of the Anthony Powell Society, a tribute to his portrayal of Kenneth Widmerpool. In the Independent on Sunday 2006 Pink List – a list of the most influential gay men and women in the UK – he was placed at number 30, representing an advance of four positions since the previous year's rankings.

Patronage[edit]

He is patron of the following organisations:

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1988 A Very Peculiar Practice Mark Stibbs TV series (1 episode "Art and Illusion")
1992 Orlando Earl of Moray
1992 Downtown Lagos TV mini-series
1993 The Mushroom Picker Anthony TV mini-series
1995 Persuasion Charles Musgrove
1996 Hamlet Second gravedigger
1997 The Temptation of Franz Schubert Franz Schubert TV film
1997 A Dance to the Music of Time Kenneth Widmerpool TV mini-series
1999 Blackadder: Back & Forth Napoleon
1999 An Ideal Husband Sir Edward
1999 Alice in Wonderland King of Hearts and Society Man TV film
2002 The Gathering Luke Fraser
2003 The Young Visiters Prince of Wales TV film
2004 Dunkirk Winston Churchill TV docudrama
2006 John and Abigail Adams: America's First Power Couple John Adams TV series
2010–2011 Spooks Home Secretary TV series
2011 The Deep Blue Sea William Collyer
2011 My Week with Marilyn Mr Cotes-Preedy
2012 Henry IV, Parts I & II Falstaff TV film; British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actor
2014 Into the Woods Baker's Father

Selected theatre[edit]

Awards and honours[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Trowbridge, Simon. The Company: A Biographical Dictionary of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Oxford: Editions Albert Creed, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9559830-2-3.

References[edit]

  1. ^ David Lister (22 February 2008). "Inside the World of Theatre's Most Reluctant Hero". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  2. ^ "Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  3. ^ Bradley, Ben (23 February 2009). "Alas, Poor Leontes (That Good King Has Not Been Himself of Late)". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  4. ^ Spencer, Charles (10 June 2009). "The Winter's Tale, The Cherry Orchard at the Old Vic, review". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2009-06-25. "Simon Russell Beale, for my money this country's greatest stage actor, stars in both shows" 
  5. ^ "The Complete Smiley". BBC Radio 4. BBC. 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  6. ^ Spooks' final series full cast and crew credits, BBC
  7. ^ http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/70226/productions/timon-of-athens-cast-creative-team.html
  8. ^ "The West End revolution: Judi Dench, Jude Law, David Walliams and Daniel Radcliffe... for £10 a seat!". Daily Mail (London). 
  9. ^ "TV Baftas 2013: all the winners". The Guardian (London). 12 May 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  10. ^ http://www.whatsonstage.com/news/theatre/london/E8831363344419/Simon+Russell+Beale+%26+John+Simm+star+in+Lloyd%27s+Hothouse.html
  11. ^ http://www.whatsonstage.com/news/theatre/london/E8831359544360/Tori+Amos+musical+Light+Princess+premieres+in+new+NT+season.html
  12. ^ ETT website
  13. ^ "New Patron for LSC" (Press release). London Symphony Chorus. 2010-12-14. Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  14. ^ Spencer, Charles (2 November 2001). "Collaborators, National Theatre, review". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  15. ^ "Diary of Events". Middle Temple. Retrieved 18 July 2010. 
  16. ^ "Conferment of Honorary Degrees and Presentation of Graduates". Open University. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  17. ^ "Granted the Freedom of the City of London". City of London. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Tim Curry
17 March 2005 (Opening) -
20 December 2005
Actor playing King Arthur on Spamalot
21 December 2005 -
26 April 2006
Succeeded by
Harry Groener
27 April 2006 -
31 October 2006