Written by Robert Bolt

Directed by David Forder

Ian McKellen in the role of William Roper

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

4 September 1961 - 17 September 1961


Words from Ian McKellen

MY FIRST JOB as a full-time professional actor was to play the juvenile part of son-in-law to the eponymous Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt’s successful West End play A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. Paul Scofield’s 'More' onscreen won him an Oscar.

The style for much of this season of plays was set by the director . . . Who addressed the first rehearsal: "OK, the play's A Man For All Seasons. In your scripts you'll find the moves they did in the West End production — what was good enough for Paul Scofield for over a year will do us very nicely for a couple of weeks."

My father Denis and stepmother Gladys drove down from Bolton in the north of England to see my debut. That first performance was unfortunate. Douglas Livingstone (King Henry), later a thriving television scriptwriter, borrowed one of my prop rings to wear in his first scene. After my own first entrance I nipped back to the dressing-room to borrow back the ring. Over the tannoy relay system, I heard the stage-manager’s urgent warning, “Mr McKellen, you are off!”, meaning I had missed my second entrance. By the time I had rushed downstairs to the stage, the other actors were exiting and I had missed the scene entirely. After the show, the leading lady of the company Sheila Keith (Lady Alice More) sat me down in the green room over a bottle of beer – “Ian you really are a very lucky actor. We are all of us “off” just once in our lives – you are lucky to have got it over so early in your career.” I wish she’d been right! 28July99

Comments and Reviews

First professional stage performance.


Banner photo: Sheila Keith (Lady Alice More)


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