Knight of stage and screen heading for Sunderland theatre

Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ian McKellen
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HE’s thought to be one of the greatest Shakesperean actors of our time and has appeared in films including Lord of the Rings and X-Men. He’s even been in Coronation Street.

Now, though, he’s coming to the Royalty.

It’s set to be a nerve-wracking night for the cast of Macbeth at the Sunderland theatre when they welcome actor Sir Ian McKellen to the audience.

The hugely successful stage, TV and film actor – who has played the role of the Scottish king for the RSC – is heading to the theatre, off Chester Road, as part of his role as patron of the Little Theatre Guild.

Royalty Theatre chairwoman Anna Snell says his visit is a huge coup for Sunderland’s oldest community theatre.

She said: “Sir Ian is a big supporter of little theatres across the country and he tries to visit various places as part of that.

“He is considered to be one of the country’s greatest stage actors, so we are really excited to have him here.

“He is really supportive of amateur productions because we make theatre accessible.

“Not everyone can afford to go to see West End shows.”

Sir Ian will take his seat at the theatre on January 25 when it stages the Bard’s “Scottish play”.

Anna added: “I think the cast will be a little more nervous for this show.

“They will be performing one of the most well-known Shakespeare plays in front of a high-calibre Shakespearean actor.

“It will be really exciting to have him in the building and we can’t wait to show him around.”

Since his acting career began in the 1960s, Sir Ian has become one of the nation’s most-loved and prolific actors.

He has undertaken a number of great Shakespearean stage roles including: Romeo in Romeo and Juliet; Macbeth in Macbeth; King Leontes in The Winter’s Tale; Iago in Othello and King Lear in King Lear.

As well as TV roles – he famously played con-man Mel Hutchwright in Coronation Street – the actor has appeared in more than 45 feature films.

In recent years, he has appeared in Blockbuster films The Lord of the Rings, X-Men and The Da Vinci Code.

Sir Ian was born in Burnley in 1939 and developed a love of the theatre – in particular Shakespeare – at a young age. He went to Bolton School and played several leading roles in Shakespeare plays, including Twelfth Night.

His visit to Sunderland is part of his role as patron of the Little Theatre Guild.

The organisation has been in existence since 1946 and has more than 100 theatres listed as members.

Its aim is to promote theatre throughout the country.

This time last year, the 87-year-old Royalty Theatre faced closure due to dwindling audience figures but is back on a firm financial footing after the success of its pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.

l Macbeth will be performed at The Royalty Theatre from January 24-29. For tickets, visit Sunderland Tourist Information Centre, on Fawcett Street or tel: 553 2000.