Ian McKellen returns to Coventry and Warwickshire - here's how to get tickets

Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ian McKellen

Stage and screen star Sir Ian McKellen is returning to Coventry next year - to the place where his career started.

He will take to the stage at the Belgrade Theatre for one night only on April 20..

Forming part of a special tour to celebrate his 80th birthday, Ian McKellen’s visit to the Belgrade will offer the perfect opportunity to reminisce about his days as part of the Belgrade repertory company, which kick-started his professional career as a young man back in the early 1960s, not long after the theatre first opened in 1958. During this time, he lived alongside other actors on-site at the theatre, in flats since converted into offices.

With the Belgrade celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2018, and as Coventry gears up for its year as City of Culture in 2021, this is the perfect opportunity to celebrate one of the brightest talents nurtured by the theatre and the city as a whole.

In honour of his long-standing connection to the Belgrade, Ian has also agreed to an exclusive meet and greet with a small group of audience members after the main event. Capacity for this post-show extra is strictly limited to 60 people, so booking early is recommended to avoid disappointment.

As well as stories of his time spent in Coventry, there will also be opportunities to hear about how his acting career progressed from those early days. Intimate and conversational in nature, the event will be a mixture of anecdote, acting and audience participation, taking in everything from Shakespeare to Tolkien along the way.

Presented by the Ambassador Theatre Group, the tour has been organised to help support theatres across the UK, with all profits directly benefiting charitable causes at individual venues. At the Belgrade Theatre, all the money raised from the event will be invested into a range of talent development work, ensuring that the theatre can continue to provide opportunities for emerging artists, actors and more to get their first break, just as it did for Ian McKellen in 1961.

Tickets will be accessibly priced, helping to enable as many people as possible to take part.

Sir Ian said: “I’m celebrating my 80th birthday by touring a new solo show to theatres I know well and a few that I don’t. The show starts with Gandalf and will probably end with an invitation to act with me on stage.

“My first professional job was at the newly-built Belgrade Theatre, living in a company flat on Corporation Street. I stayed a year, on £8.50 a week. Ian McKellen on Stage is anecdote as well as acting, so I’ll tell you a story or two about the old days.

“Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience. Growing up in Lancashire, I was grateful to those companies who toured beyond London and I’ve always enjoyed repaying that debt by touring up and down the country myself.”

Priority booking is now open for Belgrade Members, ahead of general release at 9am on Saturday 10 November. To book and for further information, visit www.belgrade.co.uk, or call the box office on 024 7655 3055.

Sir Ian will take his tour to Warwick Arts Centre on May 19. Visit warwickartscentre.co.uk for details.

And the great actor will also appear at the RSC's Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre in Stratford on July 21.

Sir Ian said: “I first came to the old Memorial Theatre in Stratford - now the Royal Shakespeare Theatre - as a schoolboy, camping at Tiddington and queuing through the night for half a crown standing places at the back of the stalls. There I saw the theatre giants of my youth.

“In 1976 for the RSC I was Romeo, Leontes and Macbeth with Judi Dench. Most recently I was King Lear in The Courtyard Theatre, the RSC’s temporary theatre whilst the Royal Shakespeare Theatre was redeveloped, followed by a world tour. So it’s with gratitude and excitement that I’ll be making my debut in the Swan Theatre, and on the same day be back on the main stage where I last performed with Prince Charles as part of Shakespeare Live! From The RSC - which marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death - in 2016.

“In my new solo show I can share memories of Stratford and reprise Shakespeare. There’ll also be a chance for you to get onstage with me. All profits will support the Stitch In Time campaign, restoring and redeveloping the RSC’s costume workshops. See you there, I hope!”

RSC artistic director Gregory Doran said: “I am thrilled that Ian will be bringing his one man show to Stratford to play in both the Swan and Royal Shakespeare Theatres. We are grateful that the proceeds from the performances will go towards Stitch in Time, our public fundraising campaign to restore and redevelop our Costume Workshop, which has £250,000 left to raise. The RSC has the largest in-house costume-making department of any British theatre, but the current workshops are in urgent need of attention to create modern-day costume-making facilities.”

Public booking opens at 10am on Wednesday November 14. Tickets from £10. Visit rsc.org.uk or call 01789 331111 to book.