Sir Ian McKellen Gala Performance at Park Theatre

Sir Ian McKellen

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Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to a gala performance of Sir Ian McKellen’s one-man show which premiered this week at Finsbury’s Park Theatre: ‘Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You’.

Sir Ian has put on a week of exclusive charitable performances to raise funds for this plucky little North London venue, which receives no public subsidy for its costs.

The show is a tour-de-force journey through the plethora of plays and films he has acted in over the course of his celebrated fifty-year career, encompassing Shakespeare’s tragic heroes Romeo and Macbeth through pantomime-era Widow Twanky and, of course, his iconic outing as wizard Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, which he acts out with particular gusto early on in the performance, even inviting onto the stage a lucky audience member to try on his pointy wizard hat and sword for an onstage selfie he won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

It was the audience participation elements that elevated the show above being a mere career retrospective, with a Shakespeare quiz and show-stopping skit making use of the theatre’s staff members thrown in for good measure.

It was revealed at the end of the show by director Jez Bond that Ian’s week of performances, alongside his other appearances at charity dinners and aftershow meet-and-greets, had raised a remarkable total of £250,000 for the theatre, which sparked a round of applause so loud it could probably have been heard by theatregoers in the West End.

One masterstroke that also injected a significant amount of funds into the pot was a limited-edition Ian McKellen souvenir wine available to buy only at the theatre, of which only 1800 bottles were produced by Tikveš of Macedonia, the oldest and largest winery in South-East Europe. I enjoyed a few glasses of this collector’s item vintage before and after the show, and was chuffed to be able to take a bottle home with me, as did everyone else who had bought a ticket.

Sir Ian emerged into the upstairs bar area following the show to pose for photographs but was quickly overwhelmed with adoring fans so had take his leave a bit sooner than expected, but his work here is already done.

“Ian has been a staunch supporter since the building was a hard-hat site,” said theatre director Jez Bond before the show. “I continue to be humbled by his incredible generosity.

“He’s donated his time to help raise vital funds by performing this show, and I’m honoured to be working with him to bring it to the stage.”

One can only hope that there will be a reprise of McKellen’s unique show at some point and a return of the special Tikveš wine – limited-edition is all well and good but once it’s finished the heart certainly yearns for more.

In the mean time, make sure to check out one of Park Theatre’s ongoing productions, with full information available at its official website www.parktheatre.co.uk. And you can keep tabs on Sir Ian’s next moves at his own website www.mckellen.com



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