Sir Ian McKellen stages free show for 80 octogenarians

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Oliver Rosser, Feast Creative

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Sir Ian McKellen is playing 80 venues across the UK to mark his 80th birthday this year

Sir Ian McKellen has marked his 80th birthday with a special show for 80 octogenarians.

The actor performed a one-off free solo show at the Norwich Playhouse for 80 people aged 80 and their guests.

The performance included anecdotes and speeches as Gandalf from Lord of the Rings and characters from many other plays he has starred in.

The show – With Tolkien, Shakespeare, others and you – is touring nationally.

Norwich Theatre Royal offered the suggestion for the one-off free show to Sir Ian and he agreed it was a “wonderful idea”.

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New Line

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Sir Ian is known to millions as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films

Proceeds from his national tour will help support local live theatre around the UK. The fund has now reached £800,000.

Sir Ian said: “Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience. Growing up in Lancashire, I was grateful to those companies who toured beyond London.”

One of the 80-year-olds who went to the show, Annella Youngman, of Coltishall, Norfolk, said: “It was absolutely wonderful. I’ve been a fan of Sir Ian’s forever, and 10 years ago this month I saw him in Waiting for Godot in Norwich.

“I said to him at the time that he was doing well for a 70-year-old as I was also 70. He said ‘You’re not doing so badly yourself.’ He was a perfect gentleman.”

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Annella Youngman attended the special matinee

Stephen Crocker, chief executive of the Theatre Royal, which helped organise the event, said: “It has been absolutely fantastic. I am fairly certain the Playhouse must be floating about four inches above the ground with the excitement.”

The actor turns 80 on 25 May, when he will be playing on his home turf in Lancashire.

The Norwich matinee was staged with the help of local newspaper group Archant, the Playhouse, Theatre Royal and Stage Two.

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Edinburgh International Festival

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The tour will take him to Edinburgh, where he played Richard II in 1969

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