Ian McKellen’s Player Kings to tour England | Theatre

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A tour of four English theatres has been announced for Player Kings, in which Sir Ian McKellen is starring as Shakespeare’s Falstaff for the first time.

The play, adapted by director Robert Icke from both parts of Henry IV, is currently being staged at Manchester Opera House before its West End run at the Noël Coward theatre from 1 April to 22 June. On Thursday it was revealed that the production will visit four more venues in July: Bristol Hippodrome, Birmingham Alexandra, Norwich Theatre Royal and Newcastle Theatre Royal.

“Player Kings is a version of Shakespeare’s most English plays,” said McKellen. “So I am glad we are bringing our production across the country which they celebrate.”

McKellen has said that he decided to become a professional actor while at Cambridge University in 1959, when he was in John Barton’s 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, although through the years I’ve resisted offers to play John Falstaff.”

Robert Icke’s adaptation of the plays was “irresistible”, said McKellen. In 2017 Icke directed a celebrated Hamlet starring Andrew Scott at the Almeida theatre. McKellen recently reprised the role of Hamlet for a new film version of the tragedy made at Theatre Royal Windsor, where he played Shakespeare’s tragic prince in 2021.

The Player Kings cast includes Toheeb Jimoh (Ted Lasso) as Prince Harry and Richard Coyle (Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore) as King Henry IV, with the set and costumes designed by Hildegard Bechtler.

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