Un­der the spell of out­sider sta­tus

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY JOSH JACK­MAN

SIR COLIN Cal­len­der said he was “a com­bi­na­tion of hon­oured and hum­bled” af­ter re­ceiv­ing a knight­hood and a Golden Globe in the space of a fort­night.

The Wolf Hall pro­ducer, who was knighted for ser­vices to the Bri­tish cre­ative in­dus­tries, joked: “It has been a good start to the year, but it’s go­ing to be down­hill from here. I don’t know how it can get bet­ter.”

Sir Colin’s mother died days be­fore he found out about his knight­hood, and just a few weeks be­fore he won a Golden Globe for the BBC se­ries Wolf Hall.

“In one sense I’m do­ing this in­ter­view for her,” he said, “be­cause it’s the in­ter­view she would’ve loved to have read if she were alive.

“Some­where up there she’s look­ing down, and this would make her smile. The JC was her bi­ble, and she was very proud of me.”

Ly­dia Cal­len­der died aged 91 on Oc­to­ber 28, the same day that tick­ets for Sir Colin’s new record-break­ing West End play Harry Pot­ter and the Cursed Child went on sale.

“It was the very def­i­ni­tion of bit­ter­sweet,” said the US-based Bri­tish pro­ducer. “The pass­ing of a par­ent has a pro­found im­pact on you but I’m not sure it’s one that you know in the im­me­di­ate shadow of their pass­ing.”

He said his mother was a link to his sib­lings’ Jewish her­itage. “She was a link to a sort of mythic world of Euro­pean Jews, part of that di­as­pora jour­ney. “There is a line in Tony Kush­ner’s play, An­gels In Amer­ica, where a rabbi is giv­ing a eu­logy, and he says: ‘You can never make that cross­ing that she made, for such great voy­ages in Golden mo­ment for Cal­len­der this world do not any more ex­ist. But ev­ery day of your lives, the miles — that voy­age be­tween that place to this one — you cross.’ “And I think it is, just as she car­ried the jour­ney of her par­ents be­fore her. That’s what she rep­re­sented.”

Sir Colin’s new the­atri­cal en­deav­our, the se­quel to the Harry Pot­ter lit­er­ary and cin­e­matic se­ries which he is co-pro­duc­ing with So­nia Fried­man, sold 175,000 tick­ets in just eight hours.

And he said his child­hood, as an Ortho­dox Jew in post-war Lon­don, shared many of the themes in Harry Pot­ter.

“R i g h t at the heart of the play and all the sto­ries there’s a the­matic about pure-bloods ver­sus mug­gles, a whole metaphor about big­otry and racism and them ver­sus us, which is em­bed­ded deeply in Harry Pot­ter.

“Grow­ing up as a Bri­tish Jew, there was al­ways this du­al­ity one was try­ing to nav­i­gate be­tween. I went to a school which had a Jewish quota, and I was al­ways aware of be­ing Jewish. It de­fined the ev­ery­day.”

This out­sider sta­tus in­flu­enced him pro­fes­sion­ally, with Sir Colin ex­plain­ing that “it has given me a per­spec­tive of be­ing in­side mo­ments while also look­ing at them from the out­side, and I think that’s helped me in my work.

“I re­mem­ber my father go­ing to work in the City in his very el­e­gant suit and look­ing at how he nav­i­gated his strong sense of be­ing Jewish and the way in which he dealt with the out­side world.”

He added that this was par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant in the mod­ern cli­mate, “which is not just mul­ti­cul­tural but also one where you’re mov­ing be­tween coun- tries, time zones, and cul­tural con­texts very quickly.

“The abil­ity to un­der­stand other peo­ple’s points of view and have em­pa­thy with them is vi­tal, and my child­hood helped­toin­formthe­wayIthoughtabout sto­ries and which ones were rel­e­vant.”

This un­der­stand­ing was vi­tal in cre­at­ing Wolf Hall, which au­di­ences saw through the eyes of royal ad­vi­sor Thomas Cromwell.

“At its cen­tre, it’s about a man con­fronting the moral com­plex­i­ties of the ex­er­cise of power, a man who is caught be­tween his de­sire to do the right thing and the need to sur­vive.

Sir Colin ad­mit­ted he was “taken aback” by the way au­di­ences re­sponded and that he “hadn’t ex­pected” to win a Golden Globe — but re­vealed that he did “have an in­stinct about the story.

“What Hi­lary Man­tel had done was to rein­vig­o­rate the his­tor­i­cal novel, and I felt that there was the same op­por­tu­nity to rein­vig­o­rate the his­tor­i­cal pe­riod drama on tele­vi­sion, mak­ing the story res­o­nant to a con­tem­po­rary au­di­ence.”

BBC se­ries Wolf Hall Harry Pot­ter: a the­atri­cal sell-out pro­duc­tion for Sir Colin Cal­len­der


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