Sir Ian sets off on tour to sup­port lo­cal the­atre

Western Daily Press - - News - ALEX GREEN news@west­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

SIR Ian McKellen has spo­ken about how re­gional the­atre launched his ca­reer as he pre­pares to em­bark on an 80-date tour of the United King­dom.

The ac­tor will cel­e­brate turn­ing 80 in May next year with a tour of the­atres in ma­jor cities like Bris­tol as well as lesser known spa­ces in Orkney and Lyme Regis.

Prof­its and his wage from his show, Ian McKellen On Stage, will go to the the­atre, with the ac­tor sug­gest­ing each space spend the money on what­ever it needs, “whether it’s paint­ing the dress­ing rooms or putting in new seats or sup­port­ing youth groups”.

The 79-year-old star stressed the im­por­tance of lo­cal the­atre com­pa­nies, say­ing “the more the­atre there is up and down the coun­try, on tour or lo­cally, the hap­pier peo­ple will be”.

Sir Ian, who was born in Bolton, Greater Manch­ester, said watch­ing re­gional the­atre had given him his first taste of the stage.

He added that he saw no rea­son why some parts of the coun­try should re­main un­der-served while larger cities and Lon­don re­ceive the best pro­duc­tions.

He said: “If I had had to have been de­pen­dent, when I was a boy, sim­ply on a lot of won­der­ful the­atre in Lon­don I would never have seen any the­atre at all.

“I’ve never un­der­stood why if you live in Lan­caster you shouldn’t have ac­cess to the best the­atre go­ing.

“I think it’s a pity if the­atre be­comes only some­thing you do on high days and hol­i­days, and spend a for­tune see­ing the long-run­ning mu­si­cal.

“If that’s all the the­atre-go­ing you do then you are miss­ing out. The more the­atre there is up and down the coun­try, on tour or lo­cally, the hap­pier peo- ple will be. The best way an ac­tor can sup­port re­gional the­atre is by go­ing to work in it.”

Sir Ian’s tour will also in­clude dates in Bath, Chel­tenham and Ex­eter.

Rem­i­nisc­ing about per­form­ing at the The­atre Royal in Bath, Sir Ian said: “In 1973, when the demo­crat­i­cally-run Ac­tors’ Com­pany brought Chekov and Con­greve to the The­atre Royal, our au­di­ences were sparse.

“The ac­tors pa­raded in town, the press ral­lied round and our houses im­proved. By the end, it was ‘House Full’ and I’ve loved the The­atre Royal ever since.

“Janet Suz­man and I were here in Sean Mathias’ Cow­ardice and most re­cently in Mathias’ pro­duc­tion of The Syn­di­cate by Ed­uardo De Fil­lipo.”

Sir Ian, who was knighted in 1991, is best known for play­ing Shake­spearean roles and as Gan­dalf in the Lord Of The Rings film se­ries.

His act will en­com­pass his wide-rang­ing ca­reer and in­clude anec­dotes, act­ing and au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion.

He said: “They will ex­pect to see Gan­dalf, they will. They prob­a­bly will ex­pect Shake­speare, and there will be a lot of that. There will be other stuff which will per­haps be more sur­pris­ing.

“There will be a chance for me to tell a story or two and it will be dif­fer­ent per­haps in each place I go to be­cause my mem­o­ries of the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val will not be ap­pro­pri­ate when play­ing in Aberys­t­wyth.”

Cheap tick­ets will be avail­able at each show and Sir Ian said he hoped young peo­ple would be in the au­di­ence at every stop.

Sir Ian McKellen will give prof­its and his fee to each of the re­gional the­atres he vis­its, in­clud­ing the Bris­tol Old Vic and Bath’s The­atre Royal, left

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