Sir Ian McKellen heads to city on 80th birthday tour

Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen is heading out on tour, celebrating his 80th birthday next year with a new solo show which he will perform at 80 theatres across the UK.

“Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience,” the iconic actor revealed recently, after announcing the 2019 tour, which will raise funds for theatres.

 I’m celebrating my 80th birthday by touring a new solo show to theatres I know well and a few that I don’t. 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.”

Ian will arrive at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre on June 3 for a one-night-only show that has already sold out.

“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 National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Prospect Theatre, the Actors’ Company, as well as with commercial productions,” Ian said.

“Sean Mathias, the director and I have worked together for stage and screen, many happy times.”

The 80-show run will launch in January, with a tour of London - from the National Theatre to the Theatre Royal Stratford East, as well as performances in the West End and Outer London. From there, it will head across the country, with Ian visiting theatres large and small with which he has personal connections, including those that house amateur groups he knew as a child and notable playhouses he has played in as a professional actor over the last half-century.

“I shall always be proud that, with Edward Petherbridge, I was in the first play ever at the Crucible in 1971,” Ian added.

“Chekov’s ‘Swansong’ was part of the concert which opened the now iconic open stage. I’ve since presented a previous solo show here and was most recently in Sheffield at the Lyceum, with Patrick Stewart in Pinter’s ‘No Man’s Land’.”

The intimate show will be a feature a mixture of anecdote and acting, everything from Tolkein to Shakespeare. Profits from the tour will go towards Storyframe – for primary school groups working with a playwright and drama specialist and creating a piece of theatre that is performed at The Crucible Theatre. Another project under the umbrella is Young Company, which is for people aged 18-25 to gain further theatrical experience and start building a career in the theatre industry through a long term programme of skills development in a professional environment.

Adam Speers, executive producer for Ambassador Theatre Group, which is presenting ‘Ian McKellen on Stage,’ said: “The UK’s regional venues are integral in supporting and developing artists and practitioners across all areas of the theatre, both on and off stage.

“All of us in this industry are united by a passion for the arts and love of what we do and this special show is a rare and excellent opportunity to celebrate what’s best in our industry while at the same time celebrating one of its greatest actors and raising vital funds to keep the lifeblood of theatre in this country flowing.”