Acting Shakespeare

Ian McKellen in Love's Labours

Twelfth Night Programme CambridgeTwelfth Night Cast List, Cambridge

Three months later, I played another old Shakespearian, Holofernes the schoolmaster, in an end-of-term musical from LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST. The larky prelate directed it in a week: it was every actor for himself, this time. When we took the show to the old Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, The Sunday Times said:

Review of Love's Labours

I decided to go on the stage when I left Cambridge. 

Ian McKellen as Toby Belch in Cambridge

Ian McKellen as Henry VI in Cambridge

In my first job, at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry (1961-62) we did the lot - Shaw, Priestley, Agatha Christie (twice), a revue and my first professional Shakespeare, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. As Claudio, I wore far too much paint round the eyes - my one regret about missing drama school is that I've never really understood stage make-up.

At Ipswich (1962-63) I returned to HENRY V. The cast was small and there were too few friends to urge unto the breach. To disguise this, those soldiers we had, crouched in front of the tiny stage and, in the dark, I whispered the final battle instructions, as if the whole audience were my band of brothers. I think they heard alright. No good if they can't hear the words.

 

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