Simon Callow Laid Bare
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 24th March, 2010
For a dozen years or more, the Friends of the Heath Library, in Keat’s Grove, Hampstead Heath, have been trying to get actor and biographer Simon Callow along to talk to their members, as part of their regular series of encounters with writers. This evening they finally pulled it off and we were rewarded with a bravura performance from the boy from Streatham who was launched into literature by lending libraries. His theatrical initiation, as the sextuagenarian thespian informed us all, began at the age of five, when he was taken to see Peter Pan at the now defunct Scala Theatre. He was immensely impressed by Captain Hook (though at his tender age not realising that this character was being portrayed by none other than Sir Donald Wolfit). Simon’s own stage début was in a school production that did not bode well. But his real immersion in the theatre came when he wrote a fan letter to Sir Laurence Olivier, who had taken over at the National Theatre, getting a response by return suggesting that the young Simon come on board the staff, working in the box office. It was while watching actors rehearse that he realised that acting was work, and hard work to boot — and something that he knew he wanted to do. People will be able to learn more when his next book comes out in May: an essentially autobiographical collection of literary journalism, ‘My Life in Pieces’.