Sir Ian sets off on tour to support local theatre
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