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Dame Judi Dench

Dame Judi Dench (born December 9 1934) was raised in Heworth, York. She made her professional debut in the York Mystery plays in 1957, after training at The Central School of Speech and Drama. Dame Judi Dench has had and continues to have a prolific career as an actress for stage, film and television.

Much of her notoriety in the theatre can be attributed to her work with Shakespeare: from her performances as Ophelia, Katherine and Juliet with The Old Vic Theatre Company (1957-1960), to her many appearances with the RSC in England and around Africa and Australia (1960-70).

Most notably, she played Lady Macbeth in Nunn’s acclaimed RSC production in 1976; and made her directorial debut with a production of Much Ado About Nothing starring Kenneth Branagh and Samantha Bond.

Dame Judi has also had an illustrious film career. She famously plays M in the James Bond films, a role she has now upheld for fourteen years. She received Oscar nominations for her roles as Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown (1997), for her role in Chocolat (2001), in Iris (2001) and in Notes on a Scandal (2006). Dame Judi Dench has received seven Laurence Olivier Awards and in 1988 she was awarded a DBE in honor of her contributions to the Arts.

In 1998, Dame Judi Dench received an Oscar for her role as Queen Elizabeth in the film Shakespeare In Love. During filming for Shakespeare In Love, Dame Judi Dench was given the stunning replica Rose Theatre, built for the film. In 2009, Dame Judi Dench donated this theatre to the British Shakespeare Company to create a home for Shakespeare in the North of England where she was born.


'Shakespeare stands as a hallowed giant oak on our cultural landscape. Dame Judi's extraordinary gesture of faith in the British Shakespeare Company shows yet again her generosity and foresight, thereby strengthening our cultural vigour in the North of England.' Sir Ben Kingsley


Sir Ben Kingsley

Sir Ben Kingsley (born December 31 1943) was born in Snaiton, Yorkshire. He was of English, East Indian and South African descent and was originally named Krishna Bhanji. Kingsley began his theatrical career as a member of an amateur theatre troupe in Manchester, before making his professional debut at the age of twenty-three. In 1967, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and devoted himself to theatrical work for the next fifteen years.

In 1982 Ben Kingsley made his transition into film work with a bang. He won an Oscar for his title role in Richard Attenborough’s film, Ghandi. Kingsley would go on to play an extremely wide range of characters from an Arab potentate in Harem (1985), a quiet, shy bibliophile in Turtle Diary (1985), a gangster in Bugsy (1992), a Jewish Bookkeeper in Schindler’s List (1993) and a suspected Nazi war criminal in Dorfman’s Death of a Maiden (1994). Kingsley bought his love of Shakespeare to the screen in 1996 when he played the Fool in Trevor Nunn’s adaptation of Twelfth Night.

Kingsley continued to take on challenging roles, playing Sweeney Todd for Schlesinger’s The Tale of Sweeney Todd and gaining a third Oscar nomination for his role in Sexy Beast (2001). He earned a fourth Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors’ Guild award for his stupendous performance in House of Sand and Frog (2003). In 2008, Kingsley was awarded the Cinema for Peace Honorary Award, for the portrayal of the humanitarian role-models Simon Wiesenthal, Itzhak Stern and Gandhi. Ben Kingsley is currently developing a biopic of William Shakespeare adapted by Christopher Rush from Rush’s novel Will. The film will be produced by Sir Ben Kingsley’s production company, SBK and Kingsley himself will play William Shakespeare

In 2008, Sir Ben Kingsley became a patron of the British Shakespeare Company and is playing an active role in guiding the rebuilding of Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in his native North.