Simon Russell Beale
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Simon Russell Beale

Simon Russell Beale

Simon Russell Beale.jpg
Beale in 2011
Born (1961-01-12) 12 January 1961 (age 60)
Penang, Malaya (now Malaysia)
EducationGonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Guildhall School of Music and Drama
  • Actor
  • author
  • historian
Years active1985-present

Sir Simon Russell Beale, (born 12 January 1961) is an English actor.

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 was part of the main cast of Showtime's Penny Dreadful. More recently, he has appeared in Into the Woods (2014) and The Death of Stalin (2017).

Early years

Beale was born on 12 January 1961, one of six children of Captain Peter Beale and his wife Julia née Winter. He was born in Penang, British Malaya, where his father was serving in the Army Medical Services. His father subsequently rose to the rank of lieutenant-general, and from 1991 to 1994 served as Surgeon-General of HM Armed Forces.[2] Several other members of Beale's family have pursued successful careers in medicine.

Beale 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. His secondary education was undertaken at the independent Clifton College in Bristol.

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 in 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 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, which were 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 (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 as Thersites in Troilus and Cressida, as Richard III and as 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's farewell productions at the Donmar Warehouse in 2002, Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, in which Beale played the title role, and Twelfth Night, in which he 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, a part written specially for him.

In 1997, he played 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 (Voltaire/Pangloss), 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, a role 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 debut as a television presenter, fronting the BBC series Sacred Music with Harry Christophers and The Sixteen. Various specials and a second series have since been produced; the most recent episode (Monteverdi in Mantua: The Genius of the Vespers) was broadcast in 2015.

In spring 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 to 2010, he played George Smiley in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of all the John le Carré novels in which Smiley featured. These were broadcast 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.

In 2010-11, Beale played 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.[]

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.[11]

He appeared alongside John Simm in Harold Pinter's The Hothouse at the Trafalgar Studios from May to August 2013, directed by Jamie Lloyd.[12]

From January 2014, he played the title role in King Lear at the National Theatre, directed once again by Sam Mendes.[13] Also from 2014 to 2016 he starred as a main cast member in Showtime's Penny Dreadful, in which he played an eccentric Egyptologist.

From May to July 2015, he starred in Temple, a new play at the Donmar Warehouse about the 2011 United Kingdom anti-austerity protests.[14] In September and October 2015, he played Samuel Foote in Mr Foote's Other Leg at the Hampstead Theatre.[15] It transferred 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.[16]

In November 2016, Beale returned to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, to play Prospero in The Tempest.[17] In June 2017, it transferred to the Barbican Centre in London. In July 2018, Beale returned to the National, starring opposite Ben Miles and Adam Godley in The Lehman Trilogy, again directed by Mendes.[18] It transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre in the West End in May 2019.

Beale starred in the title role of Richard II at the Almeida Theatre from December 2018 to February 2019.[19]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Beale contributed as a guest speaker to the The Show Must Go Online's performance of Timon of Athens.[20]

Personal life

Beale is a past president of the Anthony Powell Society,[21] a tribute to his portrayal of Kenneth Widmerpool.[22]

Beale is gay. 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.[]

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, at Buckingham Palace, on 9 October 2019.



Year Title Role Notes
1992 Orlando Earl of Moray
1995 Persuasion Charles Musgrove
1996 Hamlet Second gravedigger
1999 Blackadder: Back & Forth Napoleon Short film
1999 Alice in Wonderland King of Hearts
2002 The Gathering Luke Fraser
2011 The Deep Blue Sea William Collyer
2011 My Week with Marilyn Mr. Cotes-Preedy
2014 Into the Woods Baker's Father
2016 Cunk on Shakespeare Himself
2016 The Legend of Tarzan Mr. Frum
2017 My Cousin Rachel Couch
2017 The Death of Stalin Lavrentiy Beria British Independent Film Award for Best Supporting Actor
2018 Museum Frank Graves
2018 Operation Finale David Ben-Gurion
2018 Mary Queen of Scots Robert Beale
2019 Radioactive Gabriel Lippmann
2020 A Christmas Carol Scrooge (voice)
TBA Operation Mincemeat Post-production
TBA Benediction Post-production

Television films

Television series

Year Title Role Notes
1988 A Very Peculiar Practice Mark Stibbs Episode: "Art and Illusion"
1992 Downtown Lagos Heron 3 episodes
1993 The Mushroom Picker Anthony 3 episodes
1997 A Dance to the Music of Time Kenneth Widmerpool 4 episodes
2006 American Experience John Adams Episode: "America's First Power Couple"
2010-11 Spooks Home Secretary 13 episodes
2014-16 Penny Dreadful Ferdinand Lyle 14 episodes
2018 Vanity Fair John Sedley 6 episodes

Selected theatre


Beale is a patron of the following organisations:

Awards and honours

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 2009.
  2. ^ "Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2009.
  3. ^ Le Moignan, Mick (2015). "Generations in Harmony". Once a Caian... 15: 12-13.
  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 2009.
  7. ^ Spencer, Charles (10 June 2009). "The Winter's Tale, The Cherry Orchard at the Old Vic, review". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2009. Simon Russell Beale, for my money this country's greatest stage actor, stars in both shows
  8. ^ "The Complete Smiley". BBC Radio 4. BBC. 19 May 2009. Retrieved 2010.
  9. ^ "BBC One - Spooks - Full Credits". BBC.
  10. ^ "". Retrieved 2020.
  11. ^ "TV Baftas 2013: all the winners". The Guardian. London. 12 May 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  12. ^ Bannister, Rosie (15 March 2013). "Simon Russell Beale & John Simm star in Lloyd's Hothouse". "Whats On Stage. Retrieved 2018.
  13. ^ Bannister, Rosie (26 July 2013). "Kate Fleetwood, Anna Maxwell Martin and Olivia Vinall join Russell Beale in Mendes' Lear". Whats On Stage. Retrieved 2018.
  14. ^ "Temple". Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  15. ^ Bosanquet, Theo (15 May 2015). "Simon Russell Beale and David Hare in new Hampstead season". Whats On Stage. Retrieved 2018.
  16. ^ "The Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre". University of Oxford.
  17. ^ Bowie-Sell, Daisy (11 January 2016). "Simon Russell Beale to feature in new RSC season". Whats On Stage. Retrieved 2018.
  18. ^ Wood, Alex (18 January 2018). "Simon Russell Beale to star in National Theatre's The Lehman Trilogy alongside Ben Miles and Adam Godley". Whats On Stage. Retrieved 2018.
  19. ^ Bowie-Sell, Daisy (20 September 2018). "Simon Russell Beale, Patsy Ferran and Anne Washburn return in Almeida's new season". Whats On Stage. Retrieved 2018.
  21. ^
  22. ^ 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 2014.
  23. ^ Spencer, Charles (2 November 2001). "Collaborators, National Theatre, review". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2011.
  24. ^ "ETT website". Retrieved 2020.
  25. ^ "New Patron for LSC" (Press release). London Symphony Chorus. 14 December 2010. Archived from the original on 25 December 2012. Retrieved 2010.
  26. ^ "For Short Theatre Company". Orpington Community. Retrieved 2020.
  27. ^ "DFC Patrons". Friends of Cathedral Music. Retrieved 2020.
  28. ^ "List of all Honorary Graduates and Chancellor's Medallists". University of Warwick. Retrieved 2020.
  29. ^ "Diary of Events". Middle Temple. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 2010.
  30. ^ "Conferment of Honorary Degrees and Presentation of Graduates" (PDF). Open University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 October 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  31. ^ "Granted the Freedom of the City of London". City of London. Archived from the original on 29 January 2012. Retrieved 2011.
  32. ^ "St. Catherine's College Homepage". St. Catherine's College. Retrieved 2015.
  33. ^ "La Royal Shakespeare Company anuncia el premio que le entregamos a Simon Russell Beale. | Fundación Romeo para las Artes Escenicas". (in Spanish).
  34. ^ "No. 62666". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 June 2019. p. B2.
  35. ^ "Birthday Honours 2019: Olivia Colman and Bear Grylls on list". BBC News. 8 June 2019. Retrieved 2019.

External links

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