Royal National Theatre

April 1984 - August 1986

Adrian Noble (artistic director) asked me to return to the Royal Shakespeare Company and I was close to agreeing to live in Stratford-upon-Avon again. But I had been away from home too much of late and so I accepted Peter Hall's counter invitation to act for the first time with the National Theatre on the south bank of the river Thames, two miles from my home in London.

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Royal National Theatre
South Bank, London

The NT is the only British Theatre founded by an act of Parliament, following a 130 year-long campaign for an institution to match the great European theatre companies which predate it. When Denys Lasdun's design was completed in 1976, its three theatres, Lyttelton (proscenium), Cottesloe (adaptable studio) and Olivier (open stage) were named after the NT's first chairman Oliver Lyttelton, the chairman of the South Bank Board Lord Cottesloe, and artistic director Laurence Olivier.

By then, Peter Hall had replaced Laurence Olivier and guided the NT a little north from its temporary home at the Old Vic for the lavish complex of workshops, rehearsal rooms and offices at the south side of Waterloo Bridge. The policy of playing in repertoire continued.

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Sir Peter Hall and Lord Olivier on the terrace of the National Theatre

In 1984, the NT was funded mainly by the Arts Council of Great Britain's government grant, the late Greater London Council and the proceeds from tickets, bookshop and catering. Some would say that the NT's modestly paid employees also made their contribution. Throughout this time my salary, made up from a basic fee plus extra for each performance, never topped 500 pounds sterling.

After three productions, Peter Hall's invitation to head a group of actors within the NT repertoire re-established the partnership with Edward Petherbridge which had initiated the Actors' Company. 

— Ian McKellen, October 1999

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Ian McKellen, and Edward Pethebridge, 1980s

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The Plays

YearPlaceTitle/WriterDirector/Role
1984Royal National Theatre
Lyttelton
London

 

VENICE PRESERV'D or A Plot Discovered
Thomas Otway
DIRECTOR: Peter Gill
ROLE: Pierre


1984National Theatre
Lyttelton
London
WILD HONEY (1984)
Anton Chekov (Untitled First Play) adapted by Michael Frayn
DIRECTOR: Christopher Morahan
ROLE: Michael Platonov
Society of West End Theatres (SWET) - Best Actor in a Revival


1984Canada
Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto
ACTING SHAKESPEARE (Canada)
From Shakespeare with commentary by Ian McKellen




1984Royal National Theatre
Olivier
London
CORIOLANUS (1984)
William Shakespeare
DIRECTOR: Peter Hall
ROLE: Coriolanus
London Evening Standard Award - Best Actor


1985Piccadilly Theatre
London
A Night for Nicaragua

1985National Theatre & McKellen / Petherbridge Group
Lyttelton, Blackstone
London, Chicago

 

THE DUCHESS OF MALFI
John Webster
DIRECTOR: Philip Prowse
ROLE: Bosola


1985Old Vic
London
A Tribute to Michael Redgrave

1985National Theatre & McKellen / Petherbridge Group
Olivier, Odeon, Blackstone
London, Paris, Chicago

 

THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND
Tom Stoppard
DIRECTOR: Tom Stoppard
ROLE: Inspector Hound


1985National Theatre & McKellen / Petherbridge Group
Olivier, Odeon, Blackstone
London, Paris, Chicago

 

THE CRITIC
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
DIRECTOR: Sheila Hancock
ROLE: Mr. Puff


1985Royal National Theatre & McKellen / Petherbridge Group
Cottesloe
London

 

THE CHERRY ORCHARD
Anton Chekov, translation by Mike Alfreds with Lilia Sokolov
DIRECTOR: Mike Alfreds
ROLE: Lopakhin


1986CAMBRIDGE ARTS THEATRE
Cambridge

 

STRANGE EVENTFUL HISTORY


1986Royal National Theatre - McKellen / Petherbridge Group
International Theatre Festival
Chicago

 

THE CHERRY ORCHARD (Chicago)
Anton Chekov, translation by Mike Alfreds with Lilia Sokolov
DIRECTOR: Mike Alfreds
ROLE: Lopakhin


1986Olivier Theatre
London
ACTING SHAKESPEARE (London 1986)
From Shakespeare with commentary by Ian McKellen


1986National Theatre
Virginia Theater
New York
WILD HONEY (Broadway)
Anton Chekov (Untitled First Play) adapted by Michael Frayn
DIRECTOR: Christopher Morahan
ROLE: Michael Platonov
Drama Desk Award Nomination: Outstanding Actor in a Play

Next:
February 1987 -  December 1989
Acting Shakespeare, Henceforward..., Othello

Stage Index

Plays by Title

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