The actor Samuel West, noted among much else for his brilliant performances as Richard II (2000) and Hamlet (2001) for the RSC and for his Sheffield production of As You Like It (which visited the Swan in 2007), received an honorary Doctorate of Letters on the Edgbaston campus on December 10th.
His touching acceptance speech – which will be posted on YouTube shortly – referred gratefully to Birmingham, whose canals he knows intimately, and whose Repertory Theatre gave him his first professional role in 1989. Sam is a long-term collaborator with the Shakespeare Institute, for which he has given guest classes, and his personal archive of annotated scripts and other notes is lodged in the Institute library. (His early Shakespearean roles included Florizel in a 1985 Oxford Playhouse production of The Winter’s Tale in which Michael Dobson, the Institute’s current Director, played Time). He will be playing David Garrick at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford in April 2016 when the actor-manager-playwright’s 1769 Jubilee Ode is given its first full-scale performance since the eighteenth century: meanwhile he can be seen as the Bishop of Winchester in the BBC’s forthcoming television adaptation of the Henry VI plays and in the film Riot Club, an adaptation of his partner Laura Wade’s award-winning play Posh.