Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Special Praise from an Acting Legend; Theatre Royal Gets Sir Ian McKellen's Vote

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Special Praise from an Acting Legend; Theatre Royal Gets Sir Ian McKellen's Vote

Article excerpt

Byline: Joanne Butcher

SIR Ian McKellen has praised the Theatre Royal as the best venue in the country. The actor, who is appearing in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot until Saturday, named the Newcastle playhouse as his favourite theatre.

He also praised ongoing development work, which will involve a pounds 3.5m revamp of the auditorium and conservation work on the historic building.

Sir Ian was speaking at a private post-performance dinner at the Theatre Royal on Wednesday, where he was joined by distinguished co-stars Patrick Stewart, Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup.

The star, who has appeared on stage and screen, first trod the Theatre Royal's boards with the Prospect Theatre Company in 1969, playing the lead in Shakespeare's Richard III.

And he said he immediately fell in love with the theatre - and the city.

Also there were James Ramsbotham chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Gillian Dickinson Charitable Trust - a supporter of the theatre. He said: "I'm still pinching myself. It was a very special evening.

"Sir Ian stood up and said the Theatre Royal is the best theatre in the country.

But he also praised the city as a whole - he said that the sense of community here in the North East is reflected in the audience.

"When the audience are coming and going it is clear that many of them know each other, unlike in London. As actors, they feel that they can really become part of that community.

"One of the reasons that the Theatre Royal is last on the tour before London is that the actors can get the boost they need from the warmth of the North East."

And it was party down to Sir Ian's love for region that the decision was taken to make the theatre the Royal Shakespeare Company's second home.

Richard Berg Rust, director of development at the Theatre Royal, said: "In 1976, Sir Ian was the RSC's leading man, and the then director asked him for his opinion on which city they should choose as their base outside London. …

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