The Amazing Sir Ian McKellen
My husband and I went to see Sir Ian McKellen’s One Man Show in Folkestone recently. We didn’t know what to expect other that it would feature Gandalf and lots of Shakespeare.
Sure enough, it opened with music from Lord of the Rings, and he walked on stage with an opened copy of Lord of the Rings, and proceeded to read the passage of Gandalf’s confrontation with the Balrog. I say read, but he barely looked at the book, having committed this passage to memory. Stirring stuff indeed. He then continued, talking about his experiences making the films, and had even brought along a couple of the props from the film – Gandalf’s hat and sword! He admitted that he hadn’t read the books before filming, but we were left in no doubt of his opinion of those who proudly announce “I read Lord of the Rings every year”!
He also asked “has anyone else been on a stamp in New Zealand?”. In fact, he has appeared on 2 stamps that I know of – as well as the New Zealand stamp, he has appeared, with Francesca Annis, as Romeo and Juliet on a 2011 Royal Shakespeare Company stamp.
The show continued with his introduction to plays and theatres but his initial interest was not in performing but the mechanics of the production, and he was eventually allowed backstage at one of the nearby theatres. It was much later, after studying at Cambridge University that he actually considered making his living as an actor. And so he began his apprenticeship in repertory theatre, and a long and illustrious career.
In the second half, he brought a box of books on stage – all Shakespeare plays. He challenged us, the audience, to name as many Shakespeare plays as we could (we named then all, in record time, apparently). With each title we had a story connected with the production (or not, if he hadn’t seen or been in it). Two books had a special connection. One was Richard the Third. He had adapted this for the big screen in 1995, and set it in the 1930s (it won 2 Academy awards, for Best Costume and Art Direction). The other special connection was with a small edition of Macbeth. It was recently given to him by Royd Tolkien, the Great Grandson of J R R Tolkien, no less, so very “precioussss” indeed.
The show is in celebration of his 80th birthday later this year, and he is taking it to 80 venues around the country! If you get the opportunity to see him (and if you can still get tickets) it’s definitely worth going.
Richard III cover signed Sir Ian McKellen BC320S £50
New Zealand Lord of the Rings cover, signed by Sir Ian McKellen. BCNZCS £75
All the best
P.S. You can view either of the covers above in more detail by clicking on the image.