Ian McKellen On Stage: Tolkien, Shakespeare, Others and You

Ian McKellen On Stage: Tolkien, Shakespeare, Others and You

Some people throw a party for their 80th birthday. Not Sir Ian McKellen. He throws a new solo tour visiting theatres across the UK!

So when it was announced that Ian McKellen was coming to our little theatre in town, I didn’t hesitate in getting tickets. It’s not often an opportunity like this arises in a small town in Mid Wales.

Tickets and programme for Ian McKellen on Stage.

With a full house, the lights went down. A spotlight shone on the stage and Ian McKellen appeared, reading a passage from The Lord of the Rings. I say reading, he was holding the book but didn’t even take a mere glance. An accomplished actor, the words flowed, taking us right back to Middle-earth.

Behind Ian, a huge box (known in the business as a “skip”) sat, covered in stickers from the theatres he’d already visited. The “skip” contained a whole host of wonderful items relating to Ian’s career which came out one by one. Not least, Gandalf’s hat and sword (which one lucky audience member got to hold on stage!).

We were regaled with tales from Ian’s career and he would quite easily slip into character and read passages from the numerous parts which he’s played on stage and on screen.

It was a privilege to sit and watch this incredible man condense his life into a couple of hours for us. It’s not often a big star of stage and screen will grace the stage of a small theatre, much less donate all profits to the theatre!

Ian McKellen collecting donations for The Hafren.

Yes, Ian McKellen kindly donated all profits from the show to the theatre to go towards the new hearing loop system and if any money was left over it was to go for the upkeep and renovation of the theatre. Not only that, but as soon as the show was finished, he climbed off the stage and went straight to the foyer to collect any change (or notes!) that the audience was willing to part with. He also kindly stopped to sign programmes for anyone who asked.

Ian McKellen signing programmes.

A fantastic evening was had by all. What a true and generous gentleman and an entertaining and funny one at that!


  1. Jo says:

    What a great show that must have been, I’m sure Sir Ian’s got plenty of entertaining stories to be told. Glad you had a good time.

  2. I’m very envious, I would have loved to see this show so much! I’ve been lucky enough to see Sir Ian McKellan a couple of times, once in Bent years ago in London and once in Waiting for Godot with Sir Patrick Stewart in Bath. He’s an outstanding actor and seems like a genuinely lovely man. Lucky you, I’m glad you had a wonderful evening!

    Lisa x

  3. Hi Nikki,

    What a fantastic evening it must have been, I am so envious, although I did just discover that Sir Ian and I share the same birthday, so as a fellow Geminian he must have had some great stories to tell!

    I enjoy just about everything he is in, however I tend to remember him for some of the more minor roles he has tackled – ‘Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast’; ‘Mr. Holmes in Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Sir Leigh Teabing in the Da Vinci Code’.

    Even better that he gave the profits from the show, back to the venue. I know he can well afford those kinds of gestures occasionally, but there are probably very few other stars of such magnitude who would have considered it!

    Pleased you had a good evening and I hope that all is well with you generally 🙂


  4. Ellie says:

    Hello, Nikki
    It sounds a wonderful evening – what a lovely man he seems to be. We enjoyed a similarly wonderful evening quite a few years ago with Steve Berkoff on ‘Shakepeare’s Villains’. By the sounds of things, they share that charisma and mesmerising quality.
    Best wishes

  5. Stu Owen says:

    I was sat in the front row, enthralled and captivated in equal measure, in awe of witnessing a genuine master at work. So much energy, skill and enthusiasm for the arts.
    At one point I noticed that he had no mic and realised that he was projecting his voice to the whole theatre. Incredible.
    What a generous and beautiful man.

  6. It sounds like a wonderful night, he’s such an interesting man I can imagine he told some great stories about his career. How great is it that he gave the profits to the theatre for the hearing loop, such a good cause.

  7. Anca says:

    Aww, how wonderful. He donated all the money, signed programmes, and fundraise too. It’s a night you’ll not forget soon, that’s for sure.

  8. jeanie says:

    I am so insanely envious of this experience you had! I love Sir Ian. He’s one of the most remarkable actors of all time and so able to master any genre from the over the top comedy of “Vicious” to King Lear! Simply a brilliant actor. I can’t imagine what it was like to hear that voice, be so close. Heaven.

  9. Claire Jenkins says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. He declined to autograph my program, stating that he’d never get home in time. This was at the immediate end of the performance. I found his comments on LOTR quite disparaging and cynical I thought he lacked presence. He devoted time to name-dropping but avoided giving credit to any other actor he’d performed with. He was particularly dismissive of the late Christopher Lee which I found disrespectful and bitter. Very disappointing. I regret I can’t see him in the same light any more.

    • Nikki says:

      I’m trying to work out why you’d want your programme signed if you didn’t really enjoy the show… Name-dropping? He’s a world-famous actor, he’s obviously going to mention other actors when telling his life-story. Those he “name-dropped” didn’t need credit from Ian, why would they? I don’t think he was disrespectful, it was a running joke regarding The Lord of the Rings. I suspect you’re seeing him in a different light because he didn’t sign your programme. If you’d have waited until after he’d collected money (or perhaps chucked some in the bucket), you’d have probably got it signed. That’s my penny’s worth, anyway.

  10. Jeanna says:

    I bet he could sit down over a cup of tea or something stronger and regale you with tales and there’s a show. I’m sure that was one impressive “skip.” Thanks for the new word.

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