Simon Russell Beale born 12 February 1961
Simon Russell Beale CBE is an award-winning British actor.
Beale was born in Penang, Malaya, where his father was serving as a doctor in the military. 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.
At the age of fourteen he gave his first theatre performance playing Desdemona in Othello at 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.
Russell Beale first came to the attention of theatregoers 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 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, Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, in which he played the title role and Twelfth Night, in which Beale played Malvolio. In the spring of 2009 the same team will be collaborating on The Winter's Tale and The Cherry Orchard, in which Russell Beale will play Leontes and Lopakhin respectively, at the Old Vic Theatre.
Since 1995 he has been a regular at the Royal 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 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. In autumn 2006 he played Galileo in David Hare's adaption of Brecht's Life of Galileo [pictured] and Face in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist. At the end of 2007 he played Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing directed by Nicholas Hytner.
His performance at the National as Hamlet attracted attention and provoked commentary; some considered Russell Beale an unlikely choice to embody the quintessentially youthful and contemplative hero once played by virile actors like Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, and Mel Gibson. Beale's performance, more restrained and conversational in nature, was a resounding success, becoming one of the most noteworthy Hamlets of recent decades.
In 2005, Simon 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 Broadway role as King Arthur in the Monty Python musical Spamalot at the Palace Theatre, London.
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. He also played the King of Hearts in a 1999 television adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
In 2008 he made his début as a television presenter, fronting the BBC Four series Sacred Music about Western church music.
In 2009 he played George Smiley in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of all the John Le Carré novels in which Smiley features. These are to be aired over the succeeding 12 months.
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, an increase of four places from the year before.
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