Theatregoers were intially disappointed to discover that the legendary actor would be unable to perform that night - but they got something much more special instead
What’s the first thing you think of when you sustain an injury? Well, it’s probably ‘ouch this hurts’, but after that, it’s, ‘hmmm, not so bad, I can get a day off work from this’.
But that’s just you and me, humble mortal beings that we are. When you are Sir Ian McKellen, you think differently. The show must go on, and the people must not be left disappointed.
The 79-year-old actor is currently in a 100-show run of King Lear at the Duke of York’s Theatre on St. Martin’s Lane in London’s West End, with the show running since 11 July.
However, McKellen suffered an injury on the way to Saturday’s shows whilst travelling on the tube after he ‘galloped up 45 steps to catch the train above’ before he ‘skipped along the carriage’ and his left leg gave way. With a strained calf muscle diagnosed, he realised that he would not be able to perform the matinee show - but this did not deter him from giving the public a performance of a different nature.
Instead, he treated the crowd to a one-man show, sitting down on a chair and taking questions from the audience, as well as delighting them with a couple of Gandalf lines, as well as acting several Shakespeare scenes from memory.
Needless to say, the lucky audience were delighted:
During the Q&A, he revealed that he doesn’t approve of microphones in the theatre as he believes they get in the way of connecting with an audience, as well as saying that he only became an actor because it was the only thing he was good off, while joking that he likes to “show off”.
Kirsty Bushell, who plays Regan in the production, wrote: “Determined to give the audience something, he spoke for over an hour about his life, career and love of acting, in particular of Shakespeare to a full house.
“It was utterly spontaneous, completely natural, and deeply touching. The theatre was full of love and compassion. Check out the actors and stage managers in the wings. We hunched there, delighted.”
Ever the professional, McKellen managed to perform in the evening show later that day, but we suspect that those who were there that afternoon got the better deal.