Sir Ian McKellen has just started a tour of the UK, taking a one-man show to 80 locations celebrating his 80th birthday.
I was lucky enough to get tickets to the tour’s second night, at The Space Theatre in East London. The Space is a tiny arts centre on the Isle of Dogs, and counts McKellen as its patron. It’s so small that the audience was only 100 people or so – and we were in the second row, an opportunity to be as close to acting royalty as I’m ever likely to get.
I don’t want to tell you too much about what the show entails – if you can, try and go in knowing as little as possible. I will tell you it covers his career – yes, Lord of the Rings gets a mention – with anecdotes and readings, and the second half is devoted to William Shakespeare.
There is a second half. That’s right, this 80-year-old man is on stage for almost three hours (with an interval) and he held the audience in the palm of his hand throughout. The night included comedy and drama, celebrating McKellen’s wonderful and varied career.
It was a wonderful evening and I actually got the chance to tell McKellen that as we left. He was stood at the exit holding a donation bucket, speaking to the audience. Strangely, he seemed smaller once off the stage (the stage was only about two/three inches high). I guess that shows what an acting colossus he is.
The tour is pretty much sold out, although McKellen has said on Twitter they’re trying to add more performances and possibly another location in London. Honestly, beg, borrow or steal to get tickets. It’s worth it!