Sunday 20 May 2012: An afternoon with Gandalf, King Henry V and more!
I understand that every blip journal worth its salt should include at least one celebrity shot..... so I give you Sir Ian McKellen. (And of course my thrilled-to-bits daughter!)
We had a truly wonderful experience this afternoon at the Theatre Royal in Nelson, where Sir Ian played to a full house in his one-man show 'Shakespeare, Tolkien and You'. He is currently touring New Zealand with this show during breaks in his filming schedule for The Hobbit, in order to raise funds to help repair the earthquake damage to the Theatre Royal in Christchurch.
He opened the first half of the performance with a reading from Lord of the Rings as Gandalf, the role he played in the movie trilogy of the same name. A few lucky members of the audience were then invited onstage to hold Glamdring, Gandalf's sword, before a question-and-answer session took place. We were also treated to recitations of poems by William Wordsworth and Gerard Manley Hopkins, an alumnus of Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, where Tolkien apparently wrote part of Lord of the Rings in an upstairs classroom. By strange coincidence, my paternal great-uncle, maternal grandfather and both of my brothers were educated at Stonyhurst. Even more coincidentally, my paternal great-grandmother's family came from Grasmere in Cumbria and knew Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy.
After the interval, the second half of the performance was dedicated to the works of Shakespeare, Sir Ian being an accomplished stage actor of that genre. He gave us excerpts from a number of plays including Henry V's speech Before Harfleur ("Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;/or close up the wall with our English dead....... Cry 'God for Harry, England and Saint George!' "); the Balcony Scene from Romeo and Juliet (in which he played both Romeo and Juliet!) and a brilliant portrayal of Richard III, among others.
Then it was time for the audience participation to which Immy had been looking forward. As we were seated upstairs in the Dress Circle, I had to prod her to get up and run downstairs as I knew she was desperate to be involved, but too shy to be the first person upstairs to stand up. Anyway, she made it down there and was able to take part in a short improvised version of King Henry V, Act IV Sc. VIII in which the particpants were the 10,000 French soldiers on the field at Agincourt quickly dropping dead at the right cue from Sir Ian!
After the show, he made himself available in the lobby of the theatre to sign autographs, pose for photographs or "Do whatever you want me to do for money!" all of which was being collected for the Christchurch Theatre Royal. We queued up and duly asked for his autograph on Immy's ticket and the programme, after which I snapped this quick shot, acutely conscious that it was one of those 'you only get one shot at this and it had better be good' moments!
What a privilege it was to spend the afternoon in the company of one of the world's most accomplished actors of both stage and screen.
I must apologise for not having had much time for blip over the past couple of days. It's been a busy weekend what with one thing and another.... tomorrow we should get back to normal with the departure of our house guest.