I’m celebrating my 80th birthday next year by touring a new solo show to UK theatres I know well and a few that I don’t. I open at my local arts centre in January and end up by August in Orkney.— Ian McKellen (@IanMcKellen) November 9, 2018
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Some people may be anxious about turning 80 years old, but not Sir Ian McKellen.
In fact, the legendary English actor is celebrating his birthday by performing 80 different solo shows across the UK to benefit local theaters.
Each show consists of personal anecdotes, excerpts, and readings from the likes of Shakespeare and Tolkien, among others – and McKellen has apparently been recruiting audience members to the stage as well.
Since the tour launched in January, he has visited dozens of theaters, many of which he used to perform in as a young actor.
“Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience,” McKellen writes on the tour website.
“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.”
McKellen has also been donating the proceeds of each show to the venues and theaters he visits along the way. The tour is only halfway done and he has already raised over £800,000 ($1 million) for UK theaters, according to BBC.
McKellen will officially be turning 80 years old on May 25th, and he plans on celebrating the occasion by performing in his hometown of Lancashire.
That being said, he also did a free show in Norwich this week for 80 other 80-year-olds, and one of the adoring octogenarians said that McKellen was simply “a perfect gentleman.”
Last week, Paul T. Davies published a review of McKellen’s show in Colchester – and the critic says he was in awe of the intimate performance.
“Few actors can hold an audience in the palm of his hand; few can engage an audience so vividly; few are playful, poignant, and passionate, a little bit naughty, erudite and so damn talented,” says Davies.
“But the ‘You’ in the title of the show is the important person. He embraces us all, and embraces theatre in a warm hug of experience and joy.”