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Ian McKellen, 81, to play Hamlet in age-blind production

The Lord of Rings star has decided he shall not pass on the Shakespeare role.

Ian McKellen
Published: Friday, 26th June 2020 at 9:24 am

After almost 50 years, Sir Ian McKellen is reprising the lead role in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.


Although the part is normally taken by a younger actor, The Lord of The Rings and Hobbit star, aged 81, will portray the troubled Danish prince in a Theatre Royal Windsor age-blind production of the play.

Speaking about his role, McKellen said: “I feel lucky to be working again, thanks to [director] Bill Kenwright’s inspiring optimism and [producer] Sean Mathias’s invitation to re-examine Hamlet, 50 years on from my first go. So we will meet again.”

McKellen, known for his role as Magneto in the X-Men movies, played Hamlet in 1971 alongside actress Susan Fleetwood.

Young Ian Mckellen
Ian McKellen in a production of Richard III, also staged in 1971

Although it is unclear when the show will actually be staged to coronavirus restrictions, socially-distance rehearsals will commence on Monday (29th June).

“The disappointment at being halted by Covid-19 has now been replaced with encouraging signs that we can at least start to work on these beautiful plays with an exceptional company,” Mathias said (via WhatsOnStage)

“We walk a tightrope through the forest whilst we await news of when we may actually perform in front of a live audience, but it will be invigorating to leave the house and get into a rehearsal room and be a part of British theatre returning to the boards.”

Kenwright added: “Nothing is more important than this country’s and indeed the world’s health and safety, so we are not ready to announce an opening night yet – but I’m a great believer in making a start if a start is possible, and in this instance it is.”

The cast will also include Emmanuella Cole (Eastenders), Jonathan Hyde (Titantic), Jenny Seagrove (Judge John Deed) and stage actors Ben Allen, Alis Wyn Davies, Oli Higginson, Nick Howard-Brown, Asif Khan and Missy Malek.

Although gender-blind castings of the show have been staged before – such as Maxine Peake’s performance as Hamlet – age-blind productions of the play are less common.


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