Saturday, 18 January 2020

Ian McKellen

Back in March of last year, at the start of his epic tour of 80 theatres to celebrate his 80th birthday, I went to see Sir Ian McKellen in Bristol, and then after he finished his tour, he added extra dates and did 80+ performances at the Harold Pinter Theatre, and on an impulse, last autumn when the dates were announced, I booked a ticket for the very last show, on 5th January.

photo of hanging sign advertising Ian McKellen's show and including photo of him

Because why not, if you get the chance to see Ian McKellen, why wouldn't you?

I went up with time to spare, and walked from the station, which took me via Marble Arch, where, it appears, a rather large herd of baby elephants has appeared, since I was last there.

photo of a sculpture of a large realistic elephant in a sitting position, and 10-12 baby elephants. background of photo shows office buildigns and london buses

The sculptures  are raising awareness of orphaned elephants (The Sheldrake Trust). 

There is also a beautiful sculpture of a horse's head, which I did enjoy.
photo of a sculpture of a horse's head, drinking, with red london buses in the background of the picture

My seat was in the second row of the stalls, so I had an excellent view.

The show was similar to how it was when I saw it last March, although not exactly the same - it still covered him talking about his life history in the first half, including talking about his childhood, his opposition to s.28 and his coming out, being awarded his knighthood, (he wasn't a fan of the Queen's choice of dress on the day) and some of his roles, including his role as Widow Twanky in pantomime - which was hugely entertaining even if, like me, you are not a fan of pantomime! (His reprise of the role involved him throwing first sweets, then oranges, and finally a couple of bananas and a cucumber, into the audience)

This demonstrated that he has excellent aim - he managed to get sweets and oranges into the circle, and even the balcony! The lady sitting to my right got an orange.   

Among other things, he gave us 'Gus the Theatre Cat's song from Cats,(prefaced by some plate-licking, which I think is a reference to the new film)

The second half was primarily Shakespearean, with Sir Ian getting the audience to try to name all of Shakespeare's plays (first folio only), with his comments on them and some excerpts.

Sir Ian as a stroppy teenage Juliet was particularly entertaining, and his Rogue and peasant slave speech from Hamlet, and fear no more the heat of the sun from Cymbeline. We also got Aufidius' speech welcoming Martius Coriolanus. 

Oh, and a skit on the speech from Henry V , naming the French dead at Agincourt, but replacing their names with various wines - imagine, if you will, Sir Ian intoning 'Chateuneuf de pape' mournfully, as befits a death...

At the very end of the   evening, he gave us Sir Thomas More's The Strangers Case speech (the only speech we have written in Shakespeare's own hand, and one which Sir Ian was the first actor to perform, as the lay was banned in Shakespeare's own day. 

He had us perform the art of the crowd, caring for the strangers to be expelled, and then delivered the impassioned defence of strangers and refugees, which Shakespeare  gave to More.

Because this was the final night, after the show came to an end, there were speeches, from Ian, and his director and stage manager, with thanks and jokes all round.

It was all a great deal of fun.  And afterwards, Sir Ian came out to the foyer to collect cash from us as  we left (asking for a 'silent collection' - paper money only!

The tour has been an astonishing achievement - over 160 performances at 80 theatres, and raising over £3M for various theatre-related charities.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Christopher Eccleston at Toppings

I am lucky to live near Bath, which has two independent bookshops, both of which do regular author events. The most recent one which I attended was when Topping's invited Christopher Eccleston to speak about his autobiography, I love the bones of you.

Its a very personal book, focusing on his relationship with his father,and as taking about his own history, his mental health and struggles with anorexia, - I haven't yet read it in full, but he spoke about all of those things, very frankly, and with a lot of humour.

He was warm and friendly, especially during the Q and A section of the evening when people were sharing information about their own experiences of a family member with dementia - it was both moving and, at times, surprisingly funny.

He also talked a lot about his family and his choice to become an actor having a lot to do with  not wanting to follow his father into a factory job!

I am  looking forward to reading the book!