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Ian McKellen supports British theatre and celebrates his 80th birthday with an 80 venue tour

Ian McKellen On Stage. Photo credit: Oliver Rosser, Feast Creative.

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

IAN McKellen is to celebrate his 80th birthday next year by raising funds for theatres with a new solo show, Ian McKellen On Stage, which will play on 80 stages across the UK.

It all begins in January 2019 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.

Then, across the country, he will visit theatres large and small with which he has personal connections, including amateur groups he knew as a child and notable playhouses he has played in as a professional actor over the last half-century.

Accessibly priced tickets will be available everywhere. All profits will benefit specific causes at each theatre.

McKellen’s intimate show is a mixture of anecdote and acting, including Tolkien, Shakespeare, others…and you the audience.

McKellen said: “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.

“Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience. 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. Sean Mathias, the director and I have worked together for stage and screen, many happy times.”

Ambassador Theatre Group’s Executive Producer Adam Speers said: “ATG is proud to be presenting Ian McKellen On Stage and is committed to supporting regional touring. 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.”

Ian McKellen first acted at school and with amateur groups in the north of England, where he was born and brought up, and since 1961, he has worked non-stop in the British theatre

In Shakespeare he has triumphed as Richard II, Macbeth (with Judi Dench), Coriolanus, Iago, Richard III (also on film) and most recently as King Lear. He was in the first production of Martin Sherman’s sensational Bent as well as premieres of plays by Arnold Wesker, Peter Shaffer, Michael Frayn, Alan Ayckbourn and Mark Ravenhill.

Of late he has been Widow Twankey in the Old Vic’s Aladdin pantomime and toured Waiting for Godot and No Man’s Land with Patrick Stewart. As Salieri in Amadeus he won every available award on Broadway. And for over a decade, he toured his one-man show, Acting Shakespeare.

McKellen is recognised worldwide as Magneto in the X-Men films and Gandalf in Tolkien’s Middle Earth films. He won his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor as the gay film director James Whale in Bill Condon’s 1998 classic, Gods and Monsters. He has also starred in The Da Vinci Code, Mr Holmes and Beauty and the Beast, with CATS yet to come.

His television work stretches from Rasputin to Coronation Street, from Extras with Ricky Gervais to Vicious with Derek Jacobi. On the first ever Film On Four, McKellen was in Stephen Frears’ Walter and last year played The Dresser with Anthony Hopkins.

In 1991, Sir Ian was knighted for services to theatre in the UK. He was co-founder of Stonewall UK, which lobbies for legal and social equality for gay people. In 2008, the Queen appointed him Companion of Honour (CH), for his services to Drama and to Equality.

For a full list of venues, visit www.ianonstage.co.uk/.

Image: Ian McKellen On Stage. Photo credit: Oliver Rosser, Feast Creative.