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Samuel West (1966)

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September 2010

Samuel Alexander Joseph West is an English actor and theatre director. He is perhaps best known for his role in Howards End and his work on stage. He also starred in the award-winning play ENRON. His parents are well-known television and theatre actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales.


 early life and education
West is the son of actors Prunella Scales and Timothy West, and the grandson of the late actor Lockwood West. He was educated at Alleyn's School, a co-educational independent school in Dulwich, London, and at Lady Margaret Hall at the University of Oxford, where he studied English Literature.

West has worked as an actor in a variety of dramatic media including: theatre, film, television and radio. As well as being an actor West has also forged a career as a theatre director.

West made his London stage debut in February 1989 at the Orange Tree Theatre, playing Michael in Cocteau's Les Parents terribles, of which critic John Thaxter wrote: "He invests the role with a warmth and validity that silences sniggers that could so easily greet a lesser performance of this difficult role, and he lets us share the tumbling emotions of a juvenile torn between romantic first love and filial duty." (Richmond & Twickenham Times, 10 February 1989). Since then, West has appeared frequently on stage and has worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company, taking the title roles in Richard II and Hamlet both directed by Steven Pimlott.

In 2002, West made his stage directorial debut with The Lady's Not for Burning at the Minerva Theatre. He was appointed artistic director of Sheffield Theatres - succeeding Michael Grandage - in 2005. During his time as artistic director West revived the controversial The Romans in Britain and also directed As You Like It as part of the RSC's Complete Works Festival. Following his resignation in December 2006 from his role as artistic director, West marked his West End directorial debut with the first major revival of Dealer's Choice following its transferral to the Trafalgar Studios. He has also continued his acting career: in 2007 he appeared alongside Toby Stephens and Dervla Kirwan in Betrayal at the Donmar Warehouse, while in November 2008 he starred in the Donmar revival of T. S. Eliot's The Family Reunion.

West's acting career is not restricted to one medium; he combines stage work with film, television and radio. In 1991, he played the lower-middle-class clerk Leonard Bast in the Merchant Ivory film adaptation of E. M. Forster's novel Howards End opposite Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Anthony Hopkins. For this role, he was nominated for best supporting actor at the 1993 BAFTA Film Awards. His film career has continued with roles in a number of well known films, such as: Jane Eyre, Notting Hill, Iris and Van Helsing. In 2004, he appeared in the year's highest rated mini-series on German television, "Die Nibelungen", which was released in the USA in 2006 as Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King .

He is a familiar face on television appearing in many long running series: Midsomer Murders, Waking the Dead and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries as well as one off dramas. He played Anthony Blunt in Cambridge Spies a BBC production about four British spies, starring alongside Toby Stephens , Tom Hollander and Rupert Penry-Jones . November 2006 saw him take the lead role in BBC Television production of Random Quest adapted from the short story by John Wyndham.

West is much sought-after as a narrator of television documentaries, including the acclaimed series The Nazis: A Warning from History and The Planets. He often appears as narrator with orchestras and performed at the Last Night of the Proms in 2002. On radio, West has voiced a range of programmes from one-off dramas and serials to recitations of poetry. In 2006, he narrated the BBC Radio 4 production A Passage to India.

West has appeared alongside his actor parents on several occasions; with his mother Prunella Scales in Howards End and Stiff Upper Lips, and with his father Timothy West on stage in A Number, Henry IV Part I and Part II. In two films - Iris and the 1996 television film Over Here, Sam and his father have played the same character at different ages. In 2006, all three gave a rehearsed reading of the Harold Pinter play Family Voices as part of the Sheffield Theatres Pinter season.

 personal life
As a choral singer, West participated in the May 2006 Choir of London tour to Jerusalem and the West Bank, where he also gave poetry readings as part of the concert programme. In April 2007, he again joined the Choir of London in their tour of Palestine, directing The Magic Flute. West became the patron of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus in February 2008, having been the narrator for a concert of theirs in February 2002. He is also a patron of London children's charity Scene & Heard, Eastside Educational Trust and Mousetrap Theatre projects.

While at university, West was a member of the Socialist Workers Party and later briefly the Socialist Alliance; West has been politically active for many years and was a strong critic of Tony Blair's New Labour government.

Between 2007 and 2010, he lived with playwright Laura Wade.

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