WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Park Theatre
WHEN: 3/7 (matinee), runs to 3/7
It’s Pride weekend in London and Sir Ian McKellen is reaching the end of a week-long series of shows during which he has raised an astonishing £250,000 for north London’s four-year-old Park Theatre, which receives no government funding.
- Read on for reasons including how panto was an early inspiration
Audience members can pay extra to have a selfie taken with the star, share a glass of wine with him in his dressing room and even to have a meal with him.
There are £30 bottles of red wine with photos of the star available to buy and he’s even auctioning his own memorabilia while also giving up to two shows a day reflecting on his career.
The 78-year-old is certainly not short of a story or two explaining how he urged Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson (barefoot and eating often from a bowl of Smarties) to stay as faithful as possible to Tolkein’s written word.
During this career retrospective we also hear how the star came out to his family, his love of Wordsworth and how he became interest in the theatre as a three-year-old at a pantomime (‘I wanted to know if the crocodile was real.’) He even talks us through his own Widow Twankey at the Old Vic (see picture above).
We’ve seen him speak in this way about his career before and he’s in his element when asking the audience to name all of Shakespeare’s 37 plays in alphabetical order and then spinning off into an irresistible anecdote about his performances in them.
We’re also treated to some of his favourite speeches from Shakespeare, given added colour by insider observations including his failure to understand why so many productions of Romeo and Juliet have a balcony scene because it features nowhere in the original text.
A good two-and-a-half hours later and one leaves the Park with a feeling of warmth about how selfless he is giving so much time to a relatively new theatre, how much this beloved actor enthuses over the text upon which his craft is based, and also how mesmerising his delivery of it can be.