Ian McKellen to play Hamlet

He may be 81, but he’s certainly not slowing down. Ian McKellen is to play Hamlet for the first time in almost half a century.

Dates for the show haven’t been announced, but rehearsals begin on Monday. It will take to the stage at Theatre Royal Windsor.

Speaking about taking on the role, McKellen said: “I feel lucky to be working again, thanks to Bill Kenwright’s inspiring optimism and Sean Mathias’s invitation to re-examine Hamlet, 50 years on from my first go. So now we will meet again. Don’t know when but do know where – Theatre Royal Windsor!”

The age-blind production of Shakespeare’s tragedy, directed by Sean Mathias and produced by Bill Kenwright, will also star Ben Allen, Emmanuella Cole, Alis Wyn Davies, Oli Higginson, Nick Howard-Brown, Jonathan Hyde, Asif Khan, Missy Malek and Jenny Seagrove.

Following Hamlet, the company will also present Martin Sherman’s adaptation of Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard, with McKellen as Firs the elderly manservant.

Mathias said: “I have always been a fan of ensemble work so when Bill Kenwright asked me to be his artistic director at Windsor I saw a perfect opportunity to create a company and direct two of the greatest plays ever written.

“The disappointment at being halted by Covid-19 has now been replaced with encouraging signs that we can at least start to work on these beautiful plays with an exceptional company. We walk a tight rope through the forest whilst we await news of when we may actually perform in front of a live audience, but it will be invigorating to leave the house and get into a rehearsal room and be a part of British Theatre returning to the boards.”

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