|Simon Callow's dressing room at the Haymarket Theatre where he writes between peformances of Waiting For Godot. |
Photograph: Eamonn McCabe
Writers' rooms: Simon Callow
Saturday 20 June 2009
As that odd portmanteau commodity, an actor-writer-director, I rarely have long in any one place for writing. I'm often on the road, or in a film studio, and I snatch my time wherever and whenever I can. I wrote a great deal of my first book about Orson Welles in my trailer in the middle of various fields while appearing in Four Weddings and a Funeral, heavily bearded and padded, in a kilt, with a small cigar clamped between my teeth. Most of the second book was written with a fancy hairdo and natty moustache in my functional dressing room at Shepperton while filming The Phantom of the Opera. And now I find myself at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, unquestionably the most beautiful theatre in the West End, with indubitably the best dressing rooms. I can write anywhere, as long as there's light and power for my plug, but Dressing Room 7 at the Haymarket is heaven for me. It's large enough for me to be able to carve a space for myself where I can write, I can look out of the window on to the Philippine embassy in Suffolk Street and I can import the things I need to sustain me: CD player, flowers in great quantities, tea-making facilities and, a recent recruit, the superb Russian Ganesha with a bell on his trunk, carved from wood by Eduard Bersudsky and until recently the star of Sharmanka, the extraordinary show created by Bersudsky and his wife Tatyana Jakovskaya. So here I sit, dressed as Pozzo in Waiting for Godot - moustached, riding-jacketed - pounding the keys, trying to explain what happened to Orson Welles. I can write only after the first act, when I have a 45-minute gap, but then I write happily and with great concentration. As it happens, I turned 60 this week, and so did the play - Pozzo and I are of an age. In the room with me is a large photograph of my family's Christmas in 1934, which contains the only surviving portrait of my great grandfather, who was first a clown, then a ringmaster, then an impresario, all of which Pozzo also seems to be, so the picture is there for direct inspiration.