Skip to main content

Home Culture Culture Film & TV

Review | Sir Ian McKellen proves he is the master of theatre in his unforgettable one-man show

The iconic stage and screen actor receives more than one standing ovation

By Steve Brown

Review: Steve Brown

Keeping an audience engaged and captivated for two hours and twenty minutes is a hard task for any actor… but Sir Ian McKellen proves why he is one of the greats.

Celebrating his 80th birthday, the Lord of the Rings actor took his one man show, Ian McKellen On Stage, around the UK visiting 80 venues and it’s certainly not to be missed.

Now having a short run at the Harold Pinter Theatre, in London, until January 2020, it’s safe to say, this is one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen.

Opening with the unforgettable Lord of the Rings soundtrack, the actor appears on stage bellowing lines from J.R.R Tolkien’s novel, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, where Gandalf – who was immortalised by the actor in Peter Jackson’s trilogy – fight off against the dreaded Balrog.

What a perfect way to open a play! After the scene ends, the lights go black again and applause from the audience echoes all around, worthy of a standing ovation and I was close to standing myself.

The actor then appears back on stage and begins the show. Detailing his life from accidentally getting into theatre to becoming one of the most celebrated actors of his time.

For a show that lasts two hours and 20 minutes, there was not a moment where I, or anyone else in the audience, were at any point bored or waiting for it to end.

Images by Frederic Aranda

Ian manages to hold the attention of the entire audience from start to finish, and if that’s not a sign of a great actor then I will never know what is.

As a huge fan of the actor, I was taken back at how funny he is. Everything from his facial expressions, acting and dialogue never failed to have the audience crying with laughter throughout.

At the same time, he keeps the tension when performing some of his most iconic roles and some from upcoming roles – including from the movie adaptation of Cats.

He also talks about being involved with the Stonewall movement and how he came out to his stepmother and how their relationship cemented after. A perfectly humble and beautiful moment.

The second half is more of an educational look at William Shakespeare’s 37 theatre plays, and what a better person to do this than the master of the Bard himself.

Through audience interaction, Ian has a story or two to tell about each and every Shakespeare play and would often carry himself into one of the many, many beautiful and powerful monologues.

A particular touching moment sees the actor perform a monologue from Cymbeline in memory of close friends that has passed over the last years.

Whether you are an actor, writing or admirer of theatre, this show will leave a lasting impression on you and Ian’s performance is phenomenal.

As one of the last theatre greats, in my opinion, all the profits from the West End run will be donated to 10 charities which raise vital funds for a cross section of people involved with the arts.

There is absolutely no criticism of this show at all. It was truly perfect in every essence and a must-see for everyone!

Rating: 5*

Ian McKellen On Stage: With Tolkein, Shakespeare, others… and you! is at Harold Pinter Theatre until 5 January 2019. For tickets click here.