50 years after taking on the character for the first time, Ian McKellen is ready for rehearsals as Hamlet.
Usually known as a launching role for young actors, this will be an ‘age-blind’ production, allowing the 81 year old to reprise the Prince of Denmark.
Older actors usually take on King Lear, but the fact that Hamlet is stated as being 30 in the play doesn’t bother McKellen, who said “I feel lucky to be working again, thanks to Kill Kenwright’s inspiring optimism and Sean Mathias’s invitation to re-examine Hamlet, 50 years on from my first go.”
The actor added “So now we will meet again. Don’t know when, but we do know where – Theatre Royal Windsor!”, referencing that although rehearsals are able to begin, no performance date is known.
Mathias also commented on the lack of a performance date, saying “We walk a tightrope through the forest whilst we await news of when we may actually perform in front of a live audience, but it will be invigorating to leave the house and get into a rehearsal room and be a part of British theatre returning to the boards.”.
McKellen has been a well respected and much loved stage actor for years, and as well as getting back to performing, he has launched a fundraising appeal for the less visible theatre workers.
He kicked off the fundraising effort from backstage and front of house theatre workers with a £40,000 donation, and is encouraging lovers of theatre to also donate.
To explain why its so important to him, he stated “Many people who work in the theatre industry have seen their livelihoods disappear due to the coronavirus lockdown. I, for example, have received a distressing letter from a stage manager who is facing eviction from his home and can’t access government relief.”.
Theatre performances would be impossible without the backstage and front of house workers that assist in creating the magic of theatre, but many are low paid, self employed, or on zero hour contracts, making it difficult for them to be accepted for government support.