Sir Ian McKellen to make his grand return to the stage in ‘age, colour and gender-blind’ Hamlet

Ian Mckellen turns 80

Sir Ian McKellen will reprise the role of Hamlet, 50 years after he first played the prince.

The new production of Hamlet is billed as an “age, colour and gender-blind production”, according to The Guardian, and will begin previews in June.

McKellen said he didn’t expect to play Hamlet again – he will turn 84 in May; the character of Hamlet is usually accepted to be in his 30s. Playing the role now has given him an insight “into how much we need to see what we’re hearing”, the actor said.

Sir Ian McKellen first played Hamlet in 1971 with the Prospect theatre company. “I didn’t reckon I was any good,” he has remarked several times.

The production was first announced last year but became a victim of the pandemic. It’s now been confirmed it will open this summer at the Theatre Royal Windsor. McKellen will be joined by an incredible cast of actors, including Steven Berkoff, Jenny Seagrove and Francesca Annis.

After Hamlet, the company will stage Chekhov’s masterpiece, The Cherry Orchard, beginning in September. McKellen will play Firs, with both productions directed by Sean Mathias.

“I’ve acted in both these masterpieces before – and seen them scores of times,” Sir Ian McKellen said.

“They are in that select group of classic plays which bear, even demand, a regular look, even reappraisal. By actors, directors, producers – and audiences.”

Rehearsal originally began in the summer of last year, but the pandemic paused plans to stage the performances. With England and Wales due to be freed from all lockdown restrictions this summer, playwright Bill Kenwright is confident of a “pretty historic opening on 21 June”.

The first three weeks of Hamlet performances will operate at a reduced capacity with social distancing. From 12 July to 4 October performances will play to full theatres. Tickets go on general sale Saturday (20 March).