Hundreds of young people will be able to take part in a range of projects at Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts, as Sir Ian McKellen helped raise more than £28,000 with a sold-out performance of his one-man show on Tuesday night.

SirIanMcKellenandFinleyHann

The two-time Oscar nominee who starred in Hollywood blockbuster franchises Lord of the Rings and X-Men has been celebrating his eightieth birthday with a tour of 80 regional theatres with which he has a personal connection. His show Ian McKellen On Stage aims to have earned more than £2 million by the end of the tour next month.  

“I was on this stage forty years ago,” he told the audience, “and it’s wonderful to be back.”

Sir Ian visited Lighthouse in July 1978 just a few weeks after it opened as Poole Arts Centre in the cast of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s small-scale tour of Twelfth Night, directed by Jon Amiel, and Chekhov’s Three Sisters, directed by Trevor Nunn. In the production of Twelfth Night he had to make an entrance through the theatre, but even though he was in full costume an over-zealous usherette refused him entry – because he didn’t have a ticket!

“When I played here forty years ago it was only a few weeks old,” he told guests after the show. “I played Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night with my great friend Edward Petherbridge as Orsino. As we left the stage I called out above the din: ‘We’ll be back’ and he looked at me and said: ‘Liar!’ Well, it may have taken forty years, but I shall have to call Edward to tell him I made it back to Poole!”

The money raised by Ian McKellen On Stage will go towards Bright Sparks, the £80,000 creative discovery programme at Lighthouse to nurture, empower and enable talented young people to develop their interest in all aspects of the arts, something that is particularly close to Sir Ian’s heart. So much so that he took a collection bucket out into the foyer to gather donations made by the departing audience.

At the post-show reception he spotted Finley Hann, the 13-year-old winner of the Inter-School Poetry Slam at Lighthouse, and invited him on stage for a personal tour of his props, including Gandalf’s iconic sword Glamdring from the Lord of the Rings films.

In thanking Sir Ian, Lighthouse Chief Executive Elspeth McBain said: “It has been a real pleasure to welcome Sir Ian back to Lighthouse and I want to thank you not just for what you’ve done for our theatre, but for everything you’ve done for the theatre in general. You could have given money, but to give your time and your soul as we saw on stage tonight is truly special.

“The money raised means we can help young people find their way into the theatre by learning how it all works. Developing young talent is not just about giving opportunities to artists, but also to the huge range of people that work hard behind the scenes. Bright Sparks will give opportunities to countless young people and will ensure that the arts in Dorset continue to flourish.”

It has recently been announced that Ian McKellen On Stage will now play eighty more shows in London in aid of theatre charities in the hopes of earning more than £3 million by the end of the run.

To find out how you can help Bright Sparks email fundraising@lighthousepoole.co.uk.

Published 4 July 2019