For many, turning 80 years old would be an excuse to settle down at home for the quiet life. Not so for renowned actor of stage and screen Sir Ian McKellen, who will be performing in an autobiographical show at the Edinburgh International Festival next year.
Sir Ian who was born 25th May, 1939, will celebrate becoming an octogenarian by playing a total of 80 dates across the UK.
Ian McKellen On Stage will play at Edinburgh’s Assembly Hall from 22-25 August 2019, recalling seminal moments from his life and career. Sir Ian will share anecdotes and perform extracts from his best-loved roles.
‘I’m celebrating my 80th birthday by touring a new solo show to theatres I know well and a few that I don’t," says Sir Ian. "The evening starts with Gandalf and will probably end with an invitation to act with me on stage. In-between there will be anecdotes and acting. I open at my local arts centre in January and end up by August in Orkney."
At Sir Ian’s request, all profits from performances, including his own fees, will be used to support regional theatres and local drama provision, recognising the vital part that they play in developing artists, audiences and theatre practitioners across the UK.
Edinburgh proceeds will support drama training for young people via a bursary for an Edinburgh local to study performance, and by contributing to the refurbishment of the Drama Studio at Leith Academy.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Sir Ian’s landmark appearance at the International Festival with his dual performance of Marlowe’s Edward II which played in repertoire with Shakespeare’s Richard II at the Assembly Hall.
The festival production of Edward II was controversial at the time for its portrayal of the monarch’s same sex relationships.
Sir Ian returned to the International Festival throughout the 1970s, most notably with his newly formed cooperative, The Actors’ Company, in 1972. Performances of Ruling the Roost and ‘Tis A Pity She’s A Whore featured Sir Ian and Felicity Kendal in supporting roles as a page and a maid, allowing fellow company members to take the starring roles.
"Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience," says Sir Ian. "Growing up in Lancashire, I was grateful to those companies who toured beyond London and I’ve always enjoyed repaying that debt by touring up and down the country myself, with the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Prospect Theatre, the Actors’ Company, as well as with commercial productions. Sean Mathias, the director and I have worked together for stage and screen, many happy times."
Photo: Sir Ian McKellen, then and now, at the 1969 Edinburgh International Festival and today at (almost) 80 (credit: Oliver Rosser Feast Creative).