Sir Ian McKellen, star of stage and screen will play the title role in an age-blind production of Hamlet at the Theatre Royal Windsor.
McKellen, who gave his last Hamlet almost 50 years ago, will be directed by Seam Matthias.
Joining the multi-award winning octogenarian will be Jenny Seagrove, Ben Allen, Emmanuella Cole, Alis Wyn Davies, Oli Higginson, Nick Howard-Brown, Jonathan Hyde, Asif Khan and Missy Malek.
Produced by Bill Kenwright, the production, which began rehearsals this week, will reopen the venue at a date to be announced.
The production of Hamlet will be followed by Martin Sherman’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard in which Sir Ian will play the role of Firs the elderly manservant.
Speaking about taking on the role, McKellen said: “I feel lucky to be working again, thanks to Bill Kenwright’s inspiring optimism and Sean Mathias’s invitation to re-examine Hamlet, 50 years on from my first go. So now we will meet again. Don’t know when but do know where – Theatre Royal Windsor!”
Sir Ian most recently performed on stage in his 2019 one-man touring show – Ian McKellen On Stage – With Tolkien, Shakespeare, others and YOU. The piece, also directed by Sean Matthias, was a mix of acting and anecdotes from his life on the stage, and toured the UK to raise money for UK theatre’s and charity.
In 2018 McKellen played the title role in King Lear at Chichester Festival Theatre, followed by 100 performances at the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End. What many considered at that time, or if you believed the marketing – hinted would be his final stage performance. What is clear is that you can’t stop this octogenarian.
Mathias said: “I have always been a fan of ensemble work so when Bill Kenwright asked me to be his artistic director at Windsor I saw a perfect opportunity to create a company and direct two of the greatest plays ever written.
According to the production: “The schedule, from 29 June, will be carefully choreographed around social distancing, screening, hygiene, and PPE, with close adherence to the latest government guidelines. There will be a daily review of the protection protocol based on practical considerations learnt in the rehearsal room. If the show can’t yet go on, rehearsals at least will.”
Kenwright said: “Sean, Ian and myself have been planning this season for some time now, and the truth is I couldn’t bear to see it slip away.
“So a lot of more planning, a great deal of determination (and I must admit some of the things I learned prior to the return of football) has got us to the place where all things theatrical start. 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. I’m hopeful we will be enjoying a Windsor season in the forthcoming months.”
Further information and running dates to be announced.