The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEE HARPIN

SI­MON CALLOW has de­scribed the boy­cott Is­rael cam­paign as an “abomination” that must not be al­lowed to suc­ceed.

The renowned ac­tor and di­rec­tor was moved to speak out be­cause he be­lieves BDS pre­vents theatre reach­ing as wide a cross-sec­tion of so­ci­ety as pos­si­ble.

The Four Wed­dings and A Fu­neral star said: “I think it is an abomination that, be­cause you dis­like the sta­tus of a par­tic­u­lar coun­try, you stop artists from com­ing to com­mu­ni­cate.”

Mr Callow, who is cur­rently di­rect­ing a new ver­sion of Christo­pher Hamp­ton’s play The Phi­lan­thropist, said the re­peated calls in 2012 to boy­cott per­for­mances of The Merchant of Venice by Is­rael’s Habima Theatre Com­pany in the UK il­lus­trated how BDS dam­aged the per­form­ing arts.

“There was a huge protest about the Habima at the Globe Theatre — when it ac­tu­ally played, it was to an in­cred­i­bly mixed au­di­ence,” he said. “There was an amaz­ing amount of out­reach — the ac­tors are do­ing a good thing.

“Don’t for God’s sake start to crush them be­cause, if they aren’t ac­cepted abroad, it means they will be­come sealed off, and what­ever else hap­pens, that must not be al­lowed to oc­cur.”

Mr Callow, who has di­rected over 30 shows, in­clud­ing the multi-award­win­ning mu­si­cal Car­men Jones, the West End and Broad­way pro­duc­tions of Shirley Valen­tine and the award-win­ning Sin­gle Spies at the Na­tional Theatre, said his op­po­si­tion to the boy­cott Is­rael cam­paign was not a sign that he was a strong sup­porter of the Jewish state.

“I make no opin­ion about Is­rael be­cause I am not suf­fi­ciently well­versed,” he said. “I have not vis­ited Is­rael, although I haven’t ever been asked to go. It would be stupid of me to speak from ig­no­rance on th­ese mat­ters — so I don’t. I keep sh­tum.

“But what I will do is speak out about artists when they are blocked or have been stopped from per­form­ing.”

Mr Callow said he hoped the young but well-known cast he has as­sem­bled for his ver­sion of The Phi­lan­thropist — in­clud­ing Matt Berry, Si­mon Bird, Lily Cole, Char­lotte Ritchie and Tom Rosen­thal — would help ful­fil his deepseated de­sire for theatre to be en­joyed by as great a va­ri­ety of peo­ple as pos­si­ble.

“It is ab­so­lutely vi­tal that the plays we do speak to the whole of so­ci­ety,” he said. “That is what it is all about, the ci­ti­zens com­ing to­gether and watch­ing sto­ries about our col­lec­tive lives.

“The theatre can won­der­fully help to de­fine an age, tell us what sort of world we are liv­ing in.

“What we hope of the theatre is that it will lodge it­self in peo­ple’s brains and they will keep check­ing it against their own ex­pe­ri­ences. It is cru­cial that art is not just the pre­serve of ‘the toffs.’”

Out­side theatre walls, Mr Callow said he was in­creas­ingly fear­ful of the type of so­ci­ety we now find our­selves liv­ing within and re­vealed that he was par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump in the United States.

“I know it is a lit­tle ex­treme, and I am not the first per­son to make the com­par­i­son, but I find the sit­u­a­tion with Trump not to­tally dis­sim­i­lar to the sit­u­a­tion with Hitler be­fore he was elected.

“He is ap­peal­ing to very dark forces, great self­ish­ness and ha­tred. It is sim­ply ter­ri­fy­ing to me.”

‘The Phi­lan­thropist’ is at Trafal­gar Stu­dios un­til July 22

I speak out when artists are stopped from per­form­ing’



Si­mon Callow di­rect­ing Si­mon Bird in The Phi­lan­thropist

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