Ian McKellen shares readings from his most popular works and anecdotes from his long career in this show to mark his 80th birthday.
McKellen begins with a reading from The Lord of the Rings and takes us through his life story, with amusing anecdotes, readings of drama and poetry, and even an appearance from Widow Twanky. Then in the second half he runs through Shakespeare’s entire oeuvre with an anecdote for (almost) every one.
He’s remarkably agile, swiftly moving around the stage with the energy and light-footedness of a man half his age, and with a twinkle and wit which make him a pleasure to watch. His natural charisma shows why he has had such a long career on the stage. He has an impressive ability to connect with the entire room, explained by a story of his earliest theatre-going days when he could only afford the cheap seats, leading him to always direct his performances to the back of the room. While best known for his film roles, it’s his love of theatre that really comes through.
The expected brevity of a one man show is instead two substantial halves, but there’s never a dull moment as McKellen’s warmth, sincerity and humour welcome us into his world. And it’s even well-staged, with McKellen drawing props and mementos from a large actors’ box as he goes, including the sword he wielded as Gandalf.
The tour has raised over £3 million for theatre charities, and the actor himself stood at the front of the house with a bucket at the end demonstrating an admirable humility from the Oscar-nominated Knight. The result is not just a chance to see a world-famous actor up close but a captivating and well-rounded show from a living legend.
Ian McKellen On Stage is showing at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 5 January.