|Born||19 June 1966
|Occupation||Actor and theatre director|
West is the son of actors Prunella Scales and Timothy West. He was educated at Alleyn's School, a co-educational independent school in Dulwich, London, and later studied English Literature at Lady Margaret Hall at the University of Oxford. He 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 beween 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 (released 1992) 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 (also known as Ring of the Nibelungs, Curse of the Ring, and Sword of Xanten).
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 (Philby), Tom Hollander (Burgess) and Rupert Penry-Jones (Maclean). 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, both in 1997. He often appears as narrator with orchestras (see below) 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 (2001) and the 1996 tv 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.
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 Scene & Heard, Eastside Educational Trust and Mousetrap Theatre projects.
West has recorded over fifty audiobooks, among which are the Shakespeare plays All's Well that Ends Well, Coriolanus, Henry V, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado about Nothing and Richard II, the Wind on Fire trilogy by William Nicholson (The Wind Singer, Slaves of the Mastery and Firesong), the Arthur trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland (The Seeing Stone, At the Crossing Places and King of the Middle March), four books by Sebastian Faulks (Charlotte Gray, Birdsong, The Girl at the Lion d'Or and Human Traces), four by Michael Ridpath (Trading Reality, Final Venture, Free to Trade, and The Marketmaker), two by George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four and Homage to Catalonia), two by Mary Wesley (An Imaginative Experience and Part of the Furniture), two by Robert Goddard (Closed Circle and In Pale Battalions) and several compilations of poetry (Realms of Gold: Letters and Poems of John Keats, Bright Star, The Collected Works of Shelley, Seven Ages and Great Narrative Poems of the Romantic Age). Also Bomber, Doctor Who: The Vengeance of Morbius, Empire of the Sun, Fair Stood the Wind for France, Fluke, Great Speeches in History, How Proust Can Change Your Life, Lady Windermere's Fan, Peter Pan, The Alchemist, The Day of the Triffids, The Hairy Hands, The Lives of Christopher Chant, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, The Queen's Man, The Solitaire Mystery, The Swimming Pool Library, The Two Destinies, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Way I Found Her, The Way to Dusty Death, The Woodlanders, Under the Net and Wuthering Heights.
As a reciter West has worked with all the major British orchestras, as well as the Strasbourg Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC. Works include Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and The Soldier's Tale, Prokofiev’s Eugene Onegin, Beethoven's Egmont, Schoenburg's Ode To Napoleon, Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, Bernstein's Kaddish, Walton's Façade and Henry V, Night Mail and The Way to the Sea by Britten and Auden and the world premieres of Concrete by Judith Weir at the Barbican and Howard Goodall’s Jason and the Argonauts at the Royal Albert Hall. In 2007 West made his New York recital debut in the first performance of Little Red Violin by Anne Dudley and Steven Isserlis. He performed the suite version of Henry V at the 2002 Last Night of the Proms.
He has also appeared with The Nash Ensemble, The Raphael Ensemble, Ensemble 360° and The Lindsay, Dante and Endellion Quartets at the Wigmore Hall, London. Recordings include Eugene Onegin with Sinfonia 21 and Edward Downes, Salad Days and Walton's Henry V with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin.