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Review: Ian McKellen On Stage, at Hampstead Theatre

From Shakespearean to panto dame, one-man cabaret to celebrate his 80th birthday shows the actor’s many facets

14 February, 2019 — By ERIN COBBY

Ian McKellen on Stage. Photo: Oliver Rosser

A BLACK stage, a flash of light and Ian McKellen’s unmistakable voice speaking Tolkien’s lines into the gloom. “You shall not pass,” he screams to an enraptured audience.

This was the beginning of Ian McKellen: On Stage, a one-man cabaret that is taking the actor around the UK, 80 shows in a variety of theatres to celebrate his 80th birthday. During an impressive runtime of 2 hours 30 mins we see many facets of the man: the poetry-quoting McKellen, the Shakespearean McKellen, and my favourite, McKellen as the panto dame.

The show is structured around a cardboard box of props decorated with the stickers of previous performances. Inside is Gandalf’s sword, the complete works of Shakespeare and a Polaroid camera to ensure that one lucky audience member has an unbeatable selfie. Whimsical in nature and guided by audience interaction and chance, we learn about McKellen’s family, childhood and mostly his love affair with theatre. It is this opportunity to get to know the real Ian McKellen a little better that makes this such a special production.

• Various theatres in the UK, including February 17, The Old Vic February 19-20, Royal Court Theatre, February 24-25, and the Donmar Warehouse, March 1. www.ianonstage.co.uk/#booking


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