McKellen to visit old haunts and am­a­teur groups in 80th birth­day tour

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Chris Wie­gand

Ian McKellen will cel­e­brate his 80th birth­day next year by ask­ing au­di­ence mem­bers to act along­side him as he goes on an 80-date live tour.

He will visit some of Bri­tain’s grand­est the­atres but also am­a­teur groups, fringe venues, pub the­atres, drama schools and small arts cen­tres, many of which have had a per­sonal con­nec­tion for the ac­tor. “The show starts with Gan­dalf and will prob­a­bly end with an in­vi­ta­tion to act with me on stage,” says McKellen. “In be­tween there will be anec­dotes and act­ing.”

The tour be­gins in Jan­uary with a two-night run at his lo­cal the­atre, the Space, on the Isle of Dogs in east Lon­don. Later dates in­clude Coven­try’s Bel­grade the­atre, where he had his first pro­fes­sional job (“I stayed a year, on £8.50 a week”), Cam­bridge Arts the­atre, where he acted as an un­der­grad­u­ate, and Wi­gan Lit­tle the­atre, where he saw his first Shake­speare pro­duc­tion as a child.

On the tour, McKellen will also per­form in many the­atres for the first time and will tailor his ma­te­rial to each venue. He will visit Above the Stag in Lam­beth, south Lon­don, be­cause “I wanted to make my de­but at Lon­don’s only LGBT+ the­atre. I will in­clude my mem­o­ries of the first pro­duc­tion of Mar­tin Sher­man’s sen­sa­tional Bent, words from Ar­mis­tead Maupin and a few sur­pris­ing gay char­ac­ters in Shake­speare.”

He will cel­e­brate the day it­self, 25 May, with a show in Bolton, where he grew up and “dis­cov­ered, in its three pro­fes­sional the­atres, a pas­sion for act­ing which has never faded. In the town hall, where my fa­ther was bor­ough en­gi­neer, I’ll feel at home and grate­ful for all that Bolton nur­tured in me.”

McKellen will visit the Duke of York’s the­atre in the West End, where he made his Lon­don de­but in 1964 and re­cently re­turned to star in No Man’s Land, with Pa­trick Stew­art, and King Lear, which closed last week.

The solo tour con­cludes at the Na­tional The­atre’s vast Olivier stage, where McKellen has pre­vi­ously starred in Co­ri­olanus, The Real In­spec­tor Hound and a brief solo show about Shake­speare. Prof­its from the tour will ben­e­fit spe­cific causes at each the­atre, from tech­ni­cal im­prove­ments to com­mu­nity out­reach pro­grammes.


Sir Ian McKellen ap­pears as Richard II in 1969, with Lucy Flem­ing. Left, Ian McKellen

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