Actor Ian McKellen to star on stage in Ballymena

IAN MCKELLEN ON STAGE (1). Photo credit Oliver Rosser
Ian McKellen. Photo credit Oliver Rosser.

ACTOR Ian McKellen will be on stage in Ballymena next year and he said he is delighted to come to the area where his family roots are.

McKellen is to celebrate his 80th birthday next year by raising funds for theatres with a new solo show which will play on eighty stages across the UK.

It all begins in January 2019 with a Tour of London from the National Theatre to the Theatre Royal Stratford East, as well as performances in the West End and Outer London.

Then, across the country, he will visit theatres large and small with which he has personal connections, including amateur groups he knew as a child and notable playhouses he has played in as a professional actor over the last half-century.

Among the venues selected is The Braid Arts Centre in Ballymena next July.

Tickets for the show will be available from 10am on Friday 9 November at www.wegottickets.com/thebraidartscentre

Accessibly priced tickets will be available everywhere. All profits will benefit specific causes at each theatre.

His intimate show is a mixture of anecdote and acting, including Tolkien, Shakespeare, others…and you the audience.

Ian McKellen said: “I’m celebrating my 80th birthday by touring a new solo show to theatres I know well and a few that I don’t.

“The show 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.

“Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience. 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 RSC, the National Theatre, Prospect Theatre, the Actors’ Company, as well as with commercial productions.

“James McKellen left Ballymena in 1840, since then our family have been settled in England but I very much wanted to discover my roots during my UK tour celebrating my 80th birthday.

“It’s high time I made my debut here raising funds to support the work at The Braid. See you there, I hope!”

Ambassador Theatre Group’s (ATG) Executive Producer Adam Speers said: “ATG is proud to be presenting ‘Ian McKellen on Stage’ and is committed to supporting regional touring. The UK’s regional venues are integral in supporting and developing artists and practitioners across all areas of the theatre, both on and off stage.

“All of us in this industry are united by a passion for the arts and love of what we do and this special show is a rare and excellent opportunity to celebrate what’s best in our industry while at the same time celebrating one of its greatest actors and raising vital funds to keep the lifeblood of theatre in this country flowing.”

Ian McKellen on Stage is directed by Sean Mathias.

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IAN MCKELLEN​​ first acted at school and with amateur groups in the north of England, here he was born and brought up.

He attended Cambridge University and, since 1961, has worked non-stop in the British theatre.

He has been leading man and produced plays, modern and classic, for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Great Britain and in the West End of London.

In Shakespeare he has triumphed as Richard II, Macbeth (with Judi Dench), Coriolanus, Iago, Richard III (also on film) and most recently as King Lear.

He was in the first of Martin Sherman’s sensational “Bent” and premieres of plays by Arnold Wesker, Peter Shaffer, Michael Frayn, Alan Ayckbourn and Mark Ravenhill.

Of late he has been Widow Twankey in the Old Vic’s “Aladdin” pantomime and toured “Waiting for Godot” and “No Man’s Land” with Patrick Stewart.

As Salieri in “Amadeus” he won every available award on Broadway. For over a decade, he toured his one-man show, “Acting Shakespeare”.

McKellen is recognised worldwide as Magneto in the X-Men films and Gandalf in Tolkien’s Middle Earth films.

He won his first Oscar nomination as Best Actor, as the gay film director James Whale, in Bill Condon’s 1998 classic “Gods and Monsters”.

Since he has starred in The Da Vinci Code”, “Mr Holmes”, “Beauty and the Beast”, with “CATS” yet to come.

His television work stretches from “Rasputin” to “Coronation Street”, from “Extras” with Ricky Gervais to “Vicious” with Derek Jacobi.

On the first ever Film On Four, McKellen was in Stephen Frears’ “Walter” and last year played “The Dresser” with Anthony Hopkins.

McKellen has been an innovator on the Internet, with one of the earliest official sites for an actor, www.mcKellen.com, launched on September 1, 1997.

In 1999 he began publishing a series of journal entries that evolved into one of the earliest non-technical blogs. His followings on social media connect more than 10 million fans.

In 1991, Sir Ian was knighted for services to theatre in UK.

He was co-founder of Stonewall UK, which lobbies for legal and social equality for gay people. In 2008, the Queen appointed him Companion of Honour (CH), for his services to Drama and to Equality.

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