The actor Simon Russell Beale was born in Penang, Malasia, en 1961 and studied English at Cambridge University. He began his career with the Royal Shakespeare Company; since then his extensive theatre roles have won him three Laurence Olivier awards and a Tony for Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers on Broadway in 2004. His film work includes Orlando, The Deep Blue Sea y The Death of Stalin, for which he received a British Independent Film award for best supporting actor. He is playing Johann Sebastian Bach in Nicholas Hytner’s production of Nina Raine’s Llevar una vida de soltero & Sons en el teatro Bridge, Londres, Hasta que 11 septiembre.
I can’t say how much this got me through lockdown. I listened to it during my compulsory walks. I was getting a bit bored walking, so my family said: “Try podcasts.” It’s been my companion all the way through, and it’s brilliant. It’s presented by an American conductor, Joshua Weilerstein. I’ve just finished his analysis of the Beethoven cycle of symphonies, and I’ve also done Stravinsky with him – the back catalogue is great and goes back years. It’s fantastic for whatever level of interest or expertise you have, though it’s technical enough for professional musicians to find it interesting.
This one I haven’t seen, but I’m so excited about it: I’ve read a review and it sounds fantastic. When I was in my 20s I became sort of obsessed with Alexander the Great. He famously torched the city of Persepolis to the ground in a drunken rage, and apparently they’ve reconstructed it – I don’t think lifesize. As soon as I read that, pensé, I’ve got to go and see this magical old Persian city. I think the exhibition goes through something like 3,000 años de historia, an enormous length of time. So that’s a must for me.
Because I had time on my hands during lockdown, I’ve got back into cooking after 30 years of not cooking – I used to in my 20s. A friend of mine gave me this book, and I haven’t had a failure with it. I’ve done about half the recipes now: she does a marvellous roast chicken with orzo and feta, and a fantastic hot souffle pudding with passion fruit, lime and coconut. Her understanding of combinations of flavours is just wonderful. And they tend to be pop-it-in-the-oven, single-pot recipes, which for somebody warming up again is quite good.
William Blake vs the World by John Higgs
Blake is a complete mystery to me. I’d recognise an artwork, but as for his writing, I was limited to “Tyger Tyger, burning bright” and the words of Jerusalem. So I’m loving this book, which charts Blake’s extraordinary imaginative life – this mythological reading of reality that he invented, or discovered. You start to think: “Oh my God, that artist has been somewhere in my consciousness for the whole of my life, but I know absolutely nothing about them.” There’s a whole world just on my doorstep that I didn’t realise existed.
After Love (Aleem Khan, 2021)
I’m desperate to see this film. It stars Jo Scanlan, who’s brilliant, as the wife of a husband who, she discovers after his death, has been having a relationship with another woman. She’s such a wonderful actor – I’ve followed her work for years. I think people will know her from The Thick of It and things like that. I just know it’ll be a good film, because it’s about the minutiae of human relationships, Supongo.
I saw this just before lockdown and it was a marvellous production. They’re broadcasting it on National Theatre at Home and I will watch it again. It’s witty and very funny: there are all sorts of fun and games with who falls in love with whom. I think Titania does most of Oberon’s words, and Oberon is the one that falls in love with Bottom. And the lovers, who often are seen to be a little bit dull, they all fall in love with… todos, as far as I can see. I would recommend that wholeheartedly.