“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
This is a famous quote from ‘Twelfth Night’ by William Shakespeare, and it can also be applied to Sir Ian McKellen, and his performance in his one-man show ‘Ian McKellen On Stage,’ a show that is both very entertaining, engaging, brilliant and great!
McKellen has been touring this solo show all over the UK – 80 theatres for his 80th birthday, and now 80 performances at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London.
And I strongly encourage you to go – do whatever you can to get a ticket. It is a tour de force performance, so unlike anything I’ve ever seen in live theatre. And it’s rare to see someone of his caliber, celebrity, candor, wit and knowledge on a West End Stage.
McKellen takes us through his life during this show, which includes his work in both film (especially ‘Lord of The Rings’ where he famously played Gandalf) and theatre, working with legends any actor can only dream of working with (Laurence Olivier). There is also a huge suitcase on stage, a suitcase littered with stickers of theatres where he has performed this very same show (The Space in the Isle of Dogs, the Young Vic, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Leicester Curve Studio…..the list goes on and on). But in this suitcase are books by William Shakespeare, and McKellen gets the audience involved by asking them to call out the names of any Shakespeare book, which McKellen plucks out of the suitcase and proceeds to tell a story about said book, until all the books have been talked about – pure genius.
Ian McKellen on Stage is what I suspect is the real Ian Mckellen off stage; genuinely warm, friendly, self-assured and confident and making you feel this way too, and by the end of the night he makes the audience feel that they were let in on his life, with some secrets told, and some gossip about other famous people, and opening up his life to us in a way no other performer (that I know of) has ever done. And we feel that we want to share our lives with him at some point as well. Ian (yes I feel comfortable enough to call him Ian) collects money in the lobby after the show for theatre charities (proceeds from this show also goes to theatre charities). Taking this show to 80 theatres around the country was an 80th birthday present to himself – it is also a birthday gift to us and is a once in a lifetime experience for us as well.
Photo by Frederic Aranda
Review by Tim Baros