Ian McKellen, Part 2

Tea Time Tidbit for the week of April 29, 2019

Tea Time Tidbit

Heather’s autographed program

Recently I had the chance to attend Sir Ian McKellen’s show Tolkien, Shakespeare, Others And You - the one man show he is performing around the U.K. in celebration of his 80th birthday. Profits from the shows are being donated to the various performance venues. Details of the first half of the show I attended at McGrigor Hall in Frinton-on-Sea, as a benefit for Frinton Summer Theatre, can be found in last week’s tidbits.

The second half of the show revolved around Shakespeare, starting with McKellen performing the "Seven Ages of Man" speech from As You Like It. The audience were then tasked to try and recall every Shakespeare play. All 37 of them. As they did so, McKellen produced his own personal copy of the play that had been shouted out and then proceeded to recount a story connected with it, or act out a monologue from the play, or, in the case of Romeo & Juliet, act out an entire scene - the balcony scene - where he performed as both Romeo and Juliet!

Tea Time Tidbit

At McGrigor Hall

McKellen’s remembrances of Henry V harkened back to 1958, when he was interviewing for a place at Cambridge University’s St. Catherine’s College to study English. On looking at his notes on McKellen and seeing that he had acted a lot at school, the interviewer enquired as to if McKellen ever done any Shakespeare. “Yes, Henry the Fifth sir”, responded McKellen. He was then asked to “give me a speech.” McKellen jumped up onto a chair and gave a rousing rendition of Henry V’s “Once more unto the breech” speech. He was promptly rewarded with a forty pound a year scholarship.

Tea Time Tidbit

At McGrigor Hall

McKellen’s performance in tiny McGrigor Hall, was an almost three-hour long tour de force. The evening might have concluded a little earlier had it not been for the traditional post-intermission raffle. A pound a strip got you the chance to win one of numerous prizes lined up along the edge of the stage. While the audience – most of whom were of similar age to McKellen – asked for the numbers to be repeated, or debated aloud with themselves as to whether they should choose the Easter Egg, or the bottle of gin, or pondered what was in the Frinton Summer Theatre tote bag, I had to wonder if this was the first time that Sir Ian McKellen had sat in the wings, patiently waiting for a raffle to end before being allowed to go on with the second act.

Tea Time Tidbit

At McGrigor Hall

The show concluded with McKellen as Prospero in The Tempest. He then left the stage and the curtain closed, only to suddenly re-open. As the audience wondered why, McKellen surprised them by jumping out of the oversized trunk like a jack-in-a-box! He then reminded us that the proceeds for the evening would be going to support Frinton Summer Theatre, and held out a yellow bucket, into which he urged the audience to drop their spare change - “just don’t let it jingle though!” he quipped.

Then, as if performing for three hours alone on stage wasn’t exhausting enough, McKellen jumped off the stage and stood at the entrance to the hall, where he patiently signed programs and took "selfies" before going back on stage for publicity photos. Later McKellen declared that his performance in Frinton had been a “jewel in the necklace of shows.”

What a privilege it was to share in Sir Ian’s special birthday celebration and as we approach the big day, May 25th, on behalf of all at MPT, we wish him a very Happy Birthday!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Afternoon Tea is Maryland Public Television's weekday presentation of British programs.
Our host and Tea Lady is Heather Sanderson.
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