Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for June 3rd, 2018

McKellen: Playing the Part ****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 3rd June, 2018

Ian McKellenPossibly the greatest living male Shakespearean actor, Sir Ian McKellen has reinvented himself in his latter years, coming out (on the BBC) as homosexual at the age of 49, campaigning on LGBT rights issues and going into schools (sometimes adopting his Gandalf voice) to encourage children to be themselves yet enter into the world of make-believe. Sir Ian was a latecomer to film; as we learn from Joe Stephenson’s biopic, McKellen: Playing the Part (showing this weekend at my lovely local cinema, Genesis in Stepney Green), he was a bit sniffy about the seventh art until he actually took part in it. He was and is a stage actor par excellence. Theatre is in his blood. The film is essentially an extensive interview, illustrated with marvelous clips of McKellen’s performances (goodness, how chilling he was as Richard III!), a little reconstruction of his childhood and various shots of him behind-the-scenes. Despite living in Tower Hamlets for decades, he has never lost his northern affections — born in Wigan, but especially fond of the Grand Theatre in Leeds. It was the twin evils of the fatal AIDS epidemic and Mrs Thatcher’s Clause 28 that propelled him into political activism, raising funds to establish the London Lighthouse and to launch Stonewall. Latterly he has sometimes camped it up as “Serena”, notably pairing up with his old pal and fellow thespian, Derek Jacobi, in that ghastly TV series Vicious (tactfully not mentioned in Stephenson’s documentary). But we do see him facing up to a Tory homophobe in a memorable TV interview as he slaps down the idea that youngsters are not aware of their own innate feelings. This is done with such calm dignity that his opponent is left speechless. But, one might in fairness ask, as the octogenarian McKellen looks back on his life and playfully plans his own funeral, did he sacrifice personal happiness for the sake of his craft? Despite an earlier partnership with the younger theatre director, Sean Mathias, McKellen was and is essentially a lone figure, though revered by millions of fans around the world.

Advertisements

Posted in film review, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »