Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of IAN MCKELLEN ON STAGE

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Following an unprecedented, sold-out tour which raised £3 million for 80 theatres throughout the UK, Ian McKellen's 80th birthday theatre journey continues with a return to London for 80 further performances at the Harold Pinter Theatre from tonight, Friday 20th September.

All profits to the West End show will be donated to 10 charities which raise vital funds for a cross section of people involved with the arts; from young theatre makers just starting out to retired theatre professionals and people with disabilities working in the industry.

They include Denville Hall, English Touring Theatre, Equal People, King's Head Theatre, Mousetrap Theatre Projects, National Youth Theatre, Ramps on the Moon, Royal Welsh College, Streetwise Opera and U Can Productions.

Let's see what the critics had to say...


Anthony Walker-Cook, BroadwayWorld: Not unlike Prospero, McKellen is at his best when conjuring imaginative landscapes and characters. His ability to envisage another person or character as he delivers his monologues is rapturous. To name a few, those referenced include Christopher Lee, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Laurence Olivier....the list goes on. Listening to him talk about Shakespeare is indescribable, and by goodness it is a treat.

Nick Curtis, Evening Standard: His impressions of Olivier, Gielgud and Michael Gambon are dead on, the anecdotes wry and succinct. There's none of the indulgence that often marks this kind of show. His fondness for Judi Dench - who wore a tea towel on her head in their landmark RSC Macbeth - and Patrick Stewart is palpable but restrained.

Clive Davis, The Times: The grand old man really isn't grand at all. He may have a knighthood and a seat at Hollywood's top table, but one of the lessons of this captivating one-man show is that Ian McKellen still possesses a childlike sense of wonder at the life of an actor. All he cares about is sharing that passion with us, his audience.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: While that's a now familiar story, I was struck by how it relates to the whole saga of the McKellen family. It is fascinating to learn that so many of his forebears were lay preachers and so many of his relations teachers. There is clearly in McKellen an inherited campaigning zeal, whether it takes the form of pursuing gay rights, championing live theatre or preserving the idea of companies. While he laments the passing of the permanent rep ensemble, he also demonstrates its shortcomings: evoking the 80-year-old butler he once played in Agatha Christie's Black Coffee, he lapses into a form of quivering antiquity hilariously at odds with his own octogenarian vitality.

Alex Wood, What's On Stage: The most important component of McKellen's performance isn't the Tolkein or the Shakespeare, it's the you - the audience. He has an effortless ability to captivate all four tiers of the Harold Pinter simultaneously - at one point he gestures to the dress circle - "it was while watching Ivor Novello in that seat there", he says, "that I had my first erection". Stand-up comedy's loss is the theatre world's gain.

Stefan Kyriazis, Express: Sir Ian McKellen is a champion of the theatre, of gay rights, of our humanity. He dashes off because he has somewhere more important to be. We file out and I hear a young woman say, "I feel like I have seen something important, something I'll never forget." And then, there he is again, at the exit, yellow bucket in hand collecting for ten theatre charities. I feel like I have seen something special too.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos

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