Ian McKellen announces one-man theatre tour around UK to celebrate 80th birthday

Actor wants to give back to local theatre with a tour next year

Roisin O'Connor@Roisin_OConnor
Friday 09 November 2018 11:15
Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen will celebrate his 80th birthday next year with a new one-man solo show that will be performed on 80 stages across the UK.

Ian McKellen on Stage will be “an intimate show... a mixture of anecdotes and acting, including Tolkien, Shakespeare, others... and you the audience”.

“I'm celebrating my 80th birthday by touring a new solo show to theatres I know well and a few that I don't,” McKellen said in a statement. “The show starts with Gandalf and will probably end with an invitation to act with me on stage. In-between there will be anecdotes and acting. I open at my local arts centre in January and end up by August in Orkney.”

He continued: “Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience. Growing up in Lancashire, I was grateful to those companies who toured beyond London and I've always enjoyed repaying that debt by touring up and down the country myself, with the RSC, the National Theatre, Prospect Theatre, the Actors' Company, as well as with commercial productions.

McKellen first came to the old Memorial Theatre in Stratford (now the Royal Shakespeare Theatre) as a schoolboy, when he queued “through the night” for half a crown to stand at the back of the stalls. “There I saw the theatre giants of my youth,” he said.

“In 1976 for the RSC I was Romeo, Leontes and Macbeth (with Judi Dench). Most recently I was King Lear in the Courtyard Theatre, followed by a world tour. So it's with gratitude and excitement that I'll be making my debut in the Swan Theatre, and on the same day be back to the main stage where I last performed with Prince Charles as part of Shakespeare Live! from the RSC, which marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death – in 2016.”

All proceeds from McKellen's performances at the RSC will go towards the company's Stitch in Time campaign, to restore and develop the company's costume workshop. Proceeds from other shows will also be donated towards each theatre to be spent on whatever it needs, “whether it's painting the dressing rooms or putting in new seats or supporting youth groups”.

McKellen's tour begins on 25 January next year at The Space on the Isle of Dogs and concludes at the National Theatre in Lambeth, London on 15 September 2018.

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