London: Sir Ian McKellen argues that today’s young actors will never develop into fine middle-aged performers because they have not honed their talents in repertory theatre.
According to the ‘Lord of the Rings’ star, Britain will produce no more actors of the calibre of Dame Judi Dench or Sir Derek Jacobi because repertory theatre has died out.
The 73-year-old actor said that he would not have the career he has today without a grounding in regional rep.
The current crop of actors, who go straight into television and film roles or appear in the occasional stage production, do not have the same experience, he said.
“The situation is desperate. There are no [resident] companies in this country - not even the National Theatre has one. There’s a desert,” a leading daily has quoted him as telling Reader’s Digest.
“The danger’s going to be that the current generation of actors won’t develop into good middle-aged performers because they won’t have been able to live from their work. The strength of British theatre should be that these actors in their middle years know what they’re doing and are good at it. Not rich, not famous, but making a living,” he said.
McKellen said that he had “always been an actor for the long haul. And it all began for me with doing three years’ apprenticeship. I didn’t go to drama school.”
He appeared in 15 productions at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in the early 1960s, where he was paid 8 pounds 10 shillings and honed his talents in Shakespeare, Chekhov and Agatha Christie.