McKellen checks on Theatre Royal's rebuild

FRANCESCA LEE
Last updated 05:00 17/06/2013
Sir Ian McKellen, Isaac Theatre Royal
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ

HAVING A GANDER: Sir Ian McKellen checks out the Isaac Theatre Royal rebuild on Gloucester St, Christchurch, on Saturday. To the right is Michael Elsworth who played McKellen's double in the Lord of the Rings movies. McKellen played the part of the wizard Gandalf in the cinematic trilogy.

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Sir Ian McKellen visited two old friends in Christchurch during a brief day trip to the city this weekend.

McKellen, who is in New Zealand for pick-up shoots for Sir Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy, took some time out on Saturday to see the progress on the Isaac Theatre Royal, of which he is an avid supporter.

Joining him was English actor Michael Elsworth, who now lives in Christchurch and was his double in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

McKellen raised money for the theatre's rebuild during his one-man stage show tour of New Zealand last year.

"The first thing I saw [as I came into the theatre] were the remnants of the sets for Waiting for Godot, which we did in July 2010. They've kept a bit of the scenery here and it survived the earthquake and it will survive the restoration. There are some familiar little things about the theatre."

McKellen and Elsworth worked together as amateur actors in Lancashire.

Working on The Hobbit was no different from working on The Lord of the Rings, he said, as it was the same team working behind the cameras.

"I won't miss Gandalf because wherever I go, people want to talk about him. It won't be something that's finished and forgotten."

As for advice to budding young actors, he recommended they act as much as possible in school drama clubs and other amateur theatre productions.

"Go to the theatre. That's why I was interested in acting because I was interested in theatre as a member of the audience."

The restored Isaac Theatre Royal is scheduled to reopen by mid-June next year.

The Edwardian facade and the Back of House will be retained, but the auditorium and the foyer will be rebuilt.

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