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Director denies Ian McKellen was ‘in tears’ over troubled Hamlet production

“We’re all under strain… there’s a pandemic and we’re making Hamlet," says director Sean Mathias

By Jamie Tabberer

Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: Instagram/Ianmckellen

Sean Mathias, the stage director helming a new Sir Ian McKellen-starring version of Hamlet, has denied reports the actor has been reduced to tears after two cast members quit the show.

The production, which opens on Tuesday 20 July 2021 at the Theatre Royal Windsor, is an age, gender and colour-blind take on the Shakespearean tragedy.

The Mail On Sunday first reported that Steven Berkoff, who was to play Polonius, and Emmanuella Cole, who was to play Polonius’s son Laertes, had exited the show after a disagreement.

Sources told the newspaper McKellen had been “under strain” over the troubled production, with one saying: “‘Ian has been in tears over this. He’s absolutely beside himself that the play has been overshadowed.”

However, Mathias – whose directing credits include the iconic Bent, about a gay man imprisoned by Nazis – rubbished the report in an interview with The Guardian yesterday.

“We’ve had four understudies on in the past week”

“We’re all under strain…” he said. “There’s a pandemic and we’re making Hamlet.

“We’ve had four understudies on in the past week and I’ve had to rehearse a new Polonius [Frances Barber]… we’re all under strain. In tears? Absolutely not… a load of rubbish.”

Oscar-nominee McKellen previously played the role of the Danish prince during a UK and European tour in 1971.

A representative for McKellen has been approached for comment.

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