Review: McKellen delivers a memorable night

By Paul Chapman


They called it a one-man stage show. That was the first misnomer.

From the dramatic opening sequence, when Gandalf cast his spell over a hushed audience, the stage was filled with the presence of the villainous Richard III, a lovesick Romeo, the vacillating Hamlet and so many more.

Neither was the show restricted to the stage. Baycourt was suddenly transformed into "the vasty fields of France" as Sir Ian paced among the audience as Henry V, inspiring his frightened yeomen to lions' deeds at Agincourt.

Yesterday's show was the fourth stop on what must be an exhausting tour by Sir Ian in his drive to restore Christchurch's earthquake-damaged Isaac Theatre Royal.

It's humbling that a legend of world theatre should be treading the boards of provincial New Zealand to raise much-needed funds for one of our own.

And Tauranga showed their love of him and appreciation for the selfless task he has undertaken.

Sir Ian invited anyone on to the stage who wanted to handle Gandalf's sword Glamdring, though he needed no borrowed magic from The Lord of the Rings to hold the audience in the palm of his hand.

He told us anecdotes from shooting The Hobbit, let us in on a few trade secrets, then moved on to his earliest theatrical experiences, the joy of walking Coronation Street's cobbles while in the soap's cast, his pleasure in touring with Waiting for Godot, and his lifelong passion for Shakespeare.

With remarkable frankness and good humour he answered questions, including how he came out as gay to his stepmother when he reached the grand old age of 49.

He went back to his north of England roots by singing George Formby's Leaning on a Lampost, and called on audience members to again join him on stage for a final burst of Henry V.

In the foyer afterwards there was a long queue for autographs, cheerfully signed as the collecting buckets for the Isaac were passed around.

Thank you, Sir Ian. You truly are a knight of the theatre.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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