Rob Rinder interviewed by Jasmine Storm. © 2022
Jasmine Storm: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
Rob: No, Thank you. It’s great. It’s really important you’re writing locally. Community writing really matters. I’m a big fan.
Jasmine Storm: What do you love about Panto?
Rob Rinder: Where to begin? I think there is something uniquely British about it. And It’s so hard to describe and explain to people who don’t come of any of the tapestries of communities outside of our country what it means. Its not just being that joyous part of a national and yearly Christmas tradition. It’s also about the one thing, it has a similar connective tissue to strictly, where regardless of your background or community, everyone can delight in it. And it enables us to be silly and inclusive, and also, for many people, it’s certainly true of me, my first theatre was panto. For millions of people up and down the country, it will be the first time, in some instances perhaps the only time, especially given that how challenging it is out there, that they will ever go to theatre. So, to be part of the magic of being able to be in a team of brilliant people that transports everybody in that audience, it’s the joyous, limitless delights of Christmas. it’s the ultimate what’s not to like. Its Magic.
Jasmine: Absolutely. Do you mind if people boo you? Do people boo you?
Rob: My character is not a booer. I am more of an enabler; enabling the audience to boo the booable characters. I think the audience like me. They enjoy laughing along with me. They point at the wicked queen; the limitlessly wicked Lesley Joseph to boo at.
Jasmine: What’s your favourite panto?
Rob: I’m going to be so predictable and say this one because it’s the first one I did, last year. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and I’m not going to ruin it, but I love the take on it. Its clever and its modern whilst still retaining all of its traditional roots. The songs are great and it has all that magic. The lovely thing about panto, lots of plays get updated, but, panto, especially this one, never has to apologise for itself, it’s just the complete expression of escapism and joy for everybody. Snow White I love it. Plus, I get to be the mirror and that’s quite fun as I point and tell the truth as the mirror doesn’t lie.
Jasmine: I’ve got a question about that.
Rob: go on…
Jasmine: As the magic mirror ‘Man in the mirror’ – that character is very honest and fits well with your integrity as a judge. But could you every see yourself playing someone on the wrong side of the law?
Rob: Such a fun question. What a thoughtful question because you’re absolutely right. I am playing a version of myself. In other words, a slightly heightened version of what I would do in my court room or what I do in life which is to be authentically true. As you say, the mirror doesn’t lie it points and it’s you. I don’t think I have to do much character or theatrical gymnastics to get to an authentic place to be the mirror. Whereas I suspect I would have to do quite a lot of work in order to be a murderer or seriously wicked. Nobody’s asked me yet but who knows, I may get a call any minute saying we need a new villain. And I’d like to be a villain on Doctor Who.
Jasmine: I can see you as a villain in a bond film.
Rob: Do you know what? Hold that idea! Let’s hope that Barbara Broccoli is listening to you and if you are not only should I be but I’d be brilliant at stroking a white cat.
Jasmine: Don’t forget me if it happens
Rob: I’m telling you. You will come to the premiere as my date if this happens.
Jasmine: Laughs. Thank you. I’ll keep you to that. This interview is being recorded.
Rob: It is a contract.
Jasmine: I love strictly. We have to talk about strictly.
Rob: what’s not to like?
Jasmine: Was strictly all you imagined it to be? What was your standout memory?
Rob: it was everything I hoped it to be and I’m sorry if that sounds contrived. It was completely and utterly joyous in every sense. I think we were lucky our year, 2016, and I’m here with Lesley Joseph who I did strictly with, in that we had a real connection, the whole entire group, dancers, and so-called celebrities, and learning a new thing and every week, really just delighting in the whole thing. It was completely what I’d hoped for. The standout moment was definitely being in Blackpool. When I started the series, I didn’t know what to expect. I was terrified. I had a camera and light in my eyes, and you repeating what people say. No one ever constricts you to say anything I don’t believe or think myself, but I found myself looking down the barrel of a camera and saying ‘My whole life all I want to do is get to Blackpool’. I never thought that then. (Jasmine laughs). ’Cause it was Pre covid, of course, I actually got to go to Blackpool. It was so much fun. And I was on a swing and I swung in to this group of dancers and did One Singular Sensation. Honestly. Joy. There is no better word that that, it was complete unfettered, limitless joy.
Jasmine: It is on my bucket list.
Rob: oh yeah? you’ll get there.
Jasmine: You have had a diverse career. What are you most proud of? Becoming a judge, being 5th on strictly or your accredited documentary ‘My family, the holocaust and me’? (which moved me to tears).
Rob: Oh, thank you. It means a lot to me you saw that. I’m a television judge but I used to practice in international law, so although the cases we do on Judge Rinder are legally binding; they are contracts; arbitration. You agree to resolve your dispute. I think it’s important not to have a pyramid of things your most proud of. As long as you do everything with enthusiasm, authenticity and integrity. That could be going into strictly and giving it your whole heart. It could be in the cases of Judge Rinder, where sometimes people think the cases are a bit silly, but most are not.
Jasmine: That’s why people watch them.
Rob: I think you’re partly right. There is an element of entertainment. Lots of people take away and learn something from them.
Jasmine: I love how you ask people how they feel about it. Judge Judy never does that!
Rob: That’s really astute of you to notice and it matters a great deal to me that you took the trouble to do that. A win for us in that case, where we have given people, often in toxic conflict, the opportunity to learn to re-hear one another. In a time when other people’s lives have broken down in some kind of conflict, it’s a small thing, perhaps a contract dispute, but its about a whole raft of other things. Sometimes you can really heal a relationship, where people just stand and listen. That is a real gift, to be part of that. Sometimes instrumental in that. It really does matter.
But your last thing, the acclaimed documentary, which was kind of you to say, I really care about. The projects I am doing moving forward, are really chiefly about that. How can we understand how fragile our democracy is? How can we learn about the past so that we can do what we can not to repeat it? And as we look around the world, we know that that’s something that we can’t change. All of the work I am doing now, mostly documentaries, be that on Israel and Palestine, or various other issues going on in the world, are about trying to share what I know, and above all else, telling stories, of the people who are there, so that we as communities, whatever that community is, can move forward in the world, more equipped to be better and more courageous. So, I’m proud of all of those things really.
Jasmine: In the documentary, I remember particularly, the bit where you were standing in a room with somebody whose loved ones had perished in that room. It was just…. You don’t even need to say anything. It was very emotional.
Rob: Thank you for saying that. They are now teaching it in schools piloting it as part of citizenship, as well as history. I think that’s really especially important and I’m especially proud of that. Thank you.
Jasmine: What’s next for you after panto?
Rob: There will be some more Judge Rinder, but not for a while. I’m presenting Good Morning, Britain alongside bestie, Suzannah. And I’m making documentaries. Lots haven’t been announced yet but I’m making a documentary series for BBC and some on crime as well. Some quite fun ones actually about what goes on in the interview rooms when the police interrogate somebody. How do the police use the skill sets that they’ve got, especially in the more serious crimes to determine whether or not, someone is lying or not?
Jasmine: you have to be careful with language, don’t you? Memory is an active process and if you are asking someone to remember something from a while ago…
Rob: It’s changed during my time at the bar. When I first started, you weren’t allowed to refer to your witness statement. The event might have happened a year ago, and you might not remember. That’s now changed. Now to refresh your memory you are allowed to refer to your witness statement. But you’re precisely right, and it’s such an interesting issue, you come to court and your memories have changed. That’s why when I make programmes about either the Holocaust or the one, I’m actively involved in at the moment, what really matters to me is we hear as far as possible from people who were there in history. That we get the most reliable, memory of what it was then. That would have changed and grown and altered over the years but those are primary sources as we say and really, really valuable.
Rob: Its lovely to meet you.
Jasmine: It’s been lovely to meet you as well.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is playing at Milton Keynes Theatre from 10 December 2022 to 8 January 2023