We are delighted to announce that the actor Sir Simon Russell Beale is the newest recipient of an Honorary Fellowship from Somerville College.

Described by The Independent as “the greatest stage actor of his generation”, Sir Simon began his acting career at The Royal Court after gaining a first in English from the University of Cambridge. He then spent 8 years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, making a name for himself with both comedic and tragic roles, before joining the National Theatre, where he remained on and off for 25 years.

“It is marvellous to play a small part in the history of an institution that is so rightly proud of its inclusivity and its sense of adventure.”

During the course of an illustrious career on both stage and screen, Sir Simon has received ten Laurence Olivier Award nominations, including three wins for his performances in Volpone (1996), Candide (2000), and Uncle Vanya (2003). On Broadway, he been nominated for two Tony Awards, one of which he won for his performance as Henry Lehman in The Lehman Trilogy (2018). His work in film and TV has been recognised with two BAFTAs, one for the BBC’s Hollow Crown series (2012) and another for A Dance to the Music of Time (1997). In 2019 he was awarded a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to the Arts.

Sir Simon engages with the theatre not only as a performer, but as an editor, author and public intellectual. He is a series editor of the Arden Performance editions of Shakespeare’s plays and his first full-length publication A Piece of Work, published in September 2024, will offer unparalleled insights into a lifetime of Shakespearean study and dramatic craft.

Sir Simon has been a close associate of Somerville College since 2015, when he spoke alongside our Fellow Emerita and Shakespeare expert Professor Katherine Duncan-Jones (1941-2022) at a literary tea. He has since joined us for numerous events, and will next visit Somerville in October 2024 for an in-conversation event with Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Oxford.

Sir Simon Russell Beale with, from left, Professor Fiona Stafford, Professor Emma Smith, and Baroness Jan Royall

Responding to receiving the Honorary Fellowship, Sir Simon said, “I am delighted with this great honour that Somerville College has awarded me. Over the years, and during many visits to the College, particularly through my meetings with Katherine Duncan-Jones and Emma Smith, my affection for the College has grown and I anticipate confidently that it will grow still further. It is marvellous to play a small part in the history of an institution that is so rightly proud of its inclusivity and its sense of adventure.”

An honorary fellowship is the college’s highest recognition of distinction for alumni and associates, conferred annually by our Governing Body. Speaking of the College’s decision to grant Sir Simon this honour, Principal Jan Royall said, “It is delightful to know that, through this association, Somerville College can reaffirm our long-standing commitment to the humanities and anticipate many more such unforgettable encounters with Sir Simon. He is a thoroughly good man, a phenomenal actor and a livewire connection to the world of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.”

 

Simon Russell Beale in ‘The Lehman Trilogy’, photo by the National Theatre

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