Simon Russell Beale - LitFest 2016 by Tony Smith
In the late 80s or very early 90s, it was a warm morning in Avebury that I came across a young man, mug of tea in one hand and sheaf of paper in the other, leaning on the front fence of his parents’ house, learning his lines. He was still in his pyjamas and dressing gown.
I didn’t take a lot of notice. I was new to the area and supposed Avebury people might be a bit odd.
Over the next 25 or 30 years, I saw that same young man many more times, principally at Stratford or the National. Each performance was more arresting than the last. Simon Russell Beale was becoming a very great actor.
At the 2016 Marlborough Lit Fest, in the Town Hall, the finest actor of his generation chatted to us in what must have been for him a tiny auditorium with a tiny audience.
But that voice was still the same. The voice that brought to life many of the greatest characters in English drama chatted to us. And he let us in on the secret of the RSC’s upcoming production of ‘The Tempest’. Ariel was to be given a high tech makeover – digital wizardry!
And then, would we like to hear him give a speech from the current rehearsals? Yes, please, we said. And we were, as they say, blown away.
My wife and I saw that “Tempest” at Stratford. Blown away. Not by digital magic. By Simon Russell Beales’ Prospero – real magic.