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Simon Russell Beale

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Title: Simon Russell Beale  
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Subject: Royal National Theatre, John Caird (director), Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor, The Hollow Crown (TV series), Arkangel Shakespeare
Collection: 1961 Births, 20Th-Century English Male Actors, 21St-Century English Male Actors, Alumni of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Alumni of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Audio Book Narrators, Best Actor Bafta Award Winners, British Television Presenters, Commanders of the Order of the British Empire, Critics' Circle Theatre Award Winners, English Male Film Actors, English Male Musical Theatre Actors, English Male Radio Actors, English Male Stage Actors, English Male Television Actors, English Music Historians, English Television Presenters, Gay Actors, Laurence Olivier Award Winners, Lgbt Entertainers from England, Living People, Male Shakespearean Actors, People Educated at Clifton College, People Educated at St. Paul's Cathedral School, People from Penang, Royal National Theatre Company Members, Royal Shakespeare Company Members
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Simon Russell Beale

Simon Russell Beale
Professor Simon Russell Beale CBE
Born (1961-01-12) 12 January 1961
Penang, Malaya (now Malaysia)
Residence London
Nationality  United Kingdom
Alma mater Cambridge University
Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Occupation Actor, author and historian
Years active 1988–present
Simon Russell Beale's voice
Recorded July 2007 from the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs

Simon Russell Beale CBE (born 12 January 1961) is a British actor, author and music historian.

Beale 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 (2011) and as Falstaff in the BBC made-for-television films Henry IV, Part I and Part II (2012). He is currently part of the main cast of Showtime's Penny Dreadful.


  • Early years 1
  • Career 2
  • TV and filmography 3
  • Selected theatre 4
  • Patronage 5
  • Awards and honours 6
  • Personal life 7
  • Further reading 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early years

Beale was born in Penang, British Malaya, son of Lt-Gen Sir Peter Beale and Julia née Winter, where his father served as an army medic who later became Surgeon-General of HM Armed Forces.[2] His family includes several members who have pursued successful 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.

It was believed that he gave his first theatre performance at age 14 playing Desdemona in Othello at the independent school Clifton College's Redgrave Theatre; However, Beale has corrected this, stating that his first stage performance was as Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night's Dream at primary school.[3] In the sixth form at Clifton he also performed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a play in which he would later star at the National Theatre.

After Clifton, he went up to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and obtained a first in English, after which he was offered a place to undertake a PhD. He pursued further studies at Guildhall School of Music and Drama graduating in 1983.


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 Edward Bond at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). 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. At the first annual Ian Charleson Awards in January 1991, he received a special commendation for his 1990 performances of Konstantin in The Seagull, Thersites in Troilus and Cressida, and Edward II in Edward II, all at the RSC.[4]

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. 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 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 2000, he played Hamlet in a production directed by John Caird for the National Theatre, for which he was described by The Daily Telegraph as "portly [and] relatively long in the tooth".[5] 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.[6][7]

From 2009–2010, he played 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.[8]

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.[9]

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 (as was Collaborators earlier) on 1 November 2012 through the National Theatre Live programme.[10] He starred in a revival of Peter Nichols' Privates on Parade as part of Michael Grandage's new West End season at the Noël Coward Theatre from December 2012 to March 2013.[11]

In 2013, he won the British Academy Television Award (BAFTA) for Best 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.[12]

He appeared alongside John Simm in Harold Pinter's The Hothouse at the Trafalgar Studios from May to August 2013, directed by Jamie Lloyd.[13]

From January 2014, he played the title role in King Lear at the National Theatre, directed once again by Sam Mendes.[14]

From May to July 2015 he starred in Temple, a new play at the Donmar Warehouse about the 2011 United Kingdom anti-austerity protests.[15] In September and October 2015 he will play Samuel Foote in Mr Foote's Other Leg at the Hampstead Theatre.[16] It will transfer to the Theatre Royal Haymarket from October 2015 to January 2016.

In 2014 Beale was appointed the Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University, based at St Catherine's College.[17]

TV and filmography

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 miniseries
1993 The Mushroom Picker Anthony TV miniseries
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 miniseries
1999 Blackadder: Back & Forth Napoleon
1999 An Ideal Husband Sir Edward
1999 Alice in Wonderland King of Hearts/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
2010–11 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–present Penny Dreadful Ferdinand Lyle TV series
2014 Into the Woods Baker's Father
2016 Tarzan Filming

Selected theatre


Beale serves as Patron of the following organisations:

CBE insignia

Awards and honours

Personal life

Beale is a Past President of the Anthony Powell Society,[27] a tribute to his portrayal of Kenneth Widmerpool.[28]

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.

Further reading

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


  1. ^ David Lister (22 February 2008). "Inside the World of Theatre's Most Reluctant Hero". The Independent (London). Retrieved 27 January 2009. 
  2. ^ "Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2009. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Timely tributes for a new generation of actors". Sunday Times. 13 January 1991.
  5. ^ "Telegraph - Hamlet". The Daily Telegraph. 
  6. ^ Bradley, Ben (23 February 2009). "Alas, Poor Leontes (That Good King Has Not Been Himself of Late)". New York Times. Retrieved 25 June 2009. 
  7. ^  
  8. ^ "The Complete Smiley". BBC Radio 4. BBC. 19 May 2009. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  9. ^ "BBC One – Spooks – Full Credits". BBC. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "The West End revolution: Judi Dench, Jude Law, David Walliams and Daniel Radcliffe... for £10 a seat!". Daily Mail (London). 
  12. ^ "TV Baftas 2013: all the winners". The Guardian (London). 12 May 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Temple". 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "The Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre". 
  18. ^ Spencer, Charles (2 November 2001). "Collaborators, National Theatre, review".  
  19. ^ ETT website
  20. ^ "New Patron for LSC" (Press release). London Symphony Chorus. 14 December 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  21. ^ For Short Theatre Co.
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Diary of Events". Middle Temple. Retrieved 18 July 2010. 
  24. ^ "Conferment of Honorary Degrees and Presentation of Graduates" (PDF). Open University. Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  25. ^ "Granted the Freedom of the City of London". City of London. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  26. ^ "St. Catherine's College Homepage". St. Catherine's College. Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ Curtis, Nick (10 August 2010). "Simon Russell Beale: Some people say that I’m a national treasure. I'd rather be a Bond villain". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 

External links

  • Simon Russell Beale at the Internet Movie Database
  • Simon Russell Beale at the Internet Broadway Database
  • National Theatre: Platforms
  • Russell Beale news
  • Interview
  • The Company: A Biographical Dictionary of the RSC: Online database
  • Debrett's People of Today
Preceded by
Tim Curry
17 March 2005 (Opening) –
20 December 2005
Monty Python's Spamalot
Actor playing King Arthur in Spamalot on Broadway
21 December 2005 –
26 April 2006
Succeeded by
Harry Groener
27 April 2006 –
31 October 2006
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