International megastar Sir Ian McKellen will play Shakespeare's Falstaff in the pre-London run of Player Kings – a new adaptation of Henry IV – at Manchester Opera House next March (14-23).
Adapted by award-winning writer and director Robert Ike from Henry IV Parts I and II, the production will then head for the West End for a 12-week run from April 1.
Prince Hal wasn't born to be king but as Henry IV ages it seems he soon will be. But can Hal leave behind his riotous life with friends in the London taverns – most notably the infamous Sir John Falstaff?
McKellen said: “I decided to become a professional actor at Cambridge in 1959 when I was in an undergraduate production of Henry IV. Derek Jacobi played Prince Hal and I was the ancient Justice Shallow. Ever since, the plays have been among my favourite Shakespeares, and although through the years I’ve resisted offers to play Falstaff, Robert Icke’s ingenious adaptation was irresistible.”
Robert Icke said: “It’s a genuine honour to work with one of our greatest Shakespearean actors, especially as he tackles one of the most iconic Shakespearean roles - one he's previously never turned his hand to.
"It’s an exciting challenge to bring together two of Shakespeare’s plays into one production. "I'm thrilled that we'll have at least 60 dedicated £30 tickets for those under 30 at every performance, including in some prime spots in the auditorium.”
McKellen first acted at Bolton School and with amateur groups in the north of England. He studied English at Cambridge and since 1961 has worked non-stop in British theatre. He has been leading man and produced plays, modern and classic, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and in the West End.
Around the world, of course, Sir Ian - he was knighted in 1991 – is also recognised as Magneto in the X-Men films and as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. He received his first Academy Award nomination, for best actor, as the gay film director James Whale in Gods and Monsters.
In 2019 McKellen became the first actor to top The Stage 100 list of most influential people in British theatre, following his triumphant UK Tour and West End run of Ian McKellen on Stage, which raised £5m to support regional theatres.
McKellen is a a co-founder of Stonewall UK, which lobbies for legal and social equality for gay people, and was was appointed Companion of Honour in 2008 for "services to drama and to equality".
More info and tickets here