I’m constantly drawn to Simon Russell Beale. I’ve sketched him on a number of occasions and will continue to do so. He’s an artist’s dream with such an expressive, animated face. He’s currently performing on the vast Olivier stage at the National Theatre in Shakespeare’s King Lear, directed once again by Sam Mendes.
“Simon’s great art is that he can take a role and turn it until it catches the light. Sometimes he only turns it tow degrees and bang,” Sam is quoted as saying.
It renews a long creative partnership between the two, beginning at the RSC in 1990 with Troilus and Cressida. It has included all the Bard’s greatest roles, but Lear is possibly the big one. It is the seventh Shakespeare play on which Simon has worked with Sam.
He’s an unorthodox Lear as a Stalinesque tyrant, dividing his Kingdom amongst his three daughters. It’s been in the frame for the best part of a decade and finally realised in this extraordinary epic. It’s not Simon’s first Lear, however. He did perform the role as a 17 year old schoolboy at Clifton College.
Simon signed this sketch after the Saturday performance. There are so many other renderings waiting in the wings, given the vast emotional arc he uses to portray the tragic monarch. Watch this space.