Introducing our Festival Patrons: Simon Callow (Part 1)

Monday 2nd December 2019

Simon Callow

Simon Callow was born in Stratham, London in 1959, and although we all know Callow as an actor, musician, writer and theatre director, he actually originally attended Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland where he was active in the Northern Ireland civil rights movement.

Callow’s first role in the theatre was working for Sir Laurence Olivier – in the box office of the National Theatre. This offer of work came by return of post following a fan letter to Olivier. It was while watching actors rehearse that Simon realised that acting was something he wanted to do. Simon made his stage debut in 1973, appearing in The Thrie Estates at the Assembly Hall Theatre, Edinburgh. In 1975 he acted in Martin Sherman’s critically acclaimed Passing By for Gay Sweatshop theatre company, The Plumber’s progress in the West End and  Snoo Wilson’s The Soul of the White Ant at the Bush Theatre. In 1977 he joined the Joint Stock Theatre; in 1978, he acted in Mary Barnes at the Royal Court, played the title roles in Titus Andronicus at the Bristol Old Vic and Arturo Ui at the Half Moon Theatre.

It was his critically acclaimed performance as Mozart in the original stage production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus at the Royal National Theatre in 1979 that brought Callow to greater prominence. It also led to his first film role, playing Schikaneder in Miloš Forman’s film of the play. Following this, he starred in several series of the Channel 4 sitcom Chance in a Million, as the eccentric Tom Chance, and appeared with Saeed Jaffrey in 1994 British television series Little Napoleons. In the same year, Callow played the much-loved character Gareth in the hit film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Renowned for a series of one-man shows, which have toured the United Kingdom and internationally, these began with a West End production of The Importance of Being Oscar. They have included The Mystery of Charles Dickens by Peter Ackroyd, There Reigns Love, a performance of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Dr Marigold & Mr Chops by Charles Dickens, Being Shakespeare by Jonathan Bate, The Man Jesus by Matthew Hurt, and Inside Wagner’s Head.

In 2004, Simon appeared on a Comic Relief episode of Little Britain. He also hosted the London Gay Men’s Chorus Christmas Show, Make the Yuletide Gay at the Barbican Centre in London. He is currently one of the patrons of the Michael Chekhov Studio London and of the London Oratory School Scholarship. In 2007, he threatened to resign this last post over controversy surrounding the Terrence Higgins Trust, a charity for which Callow is also a patron.

Notable recent acting work has included his performance as Count Fosco, the villain of Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, both in film and on stage; as Pozzo in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot opposite Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart and Ronald Pickup; and as the psychiatrist in Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Peter Shaffer’s Equus. Earlier this year, he appeared in Matthew Hurt’s one-man play, The Man Jesus, at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

Amongst his extensive voice work, highlights have been playing the role of Wolfgang in Shoebox Zoo and narrating the audio book of Robert Fagles’ 2006 translation of Virgil’s The Aeneid.

The entire team at the Stonyhurst Literature & Film Festival are delighted that Simon Callow has decided to become a Festival Patron after attending the festival last year. We will be announcing over the next couple of months our other Patrons, Sponsors and Partnerships.