Sunday, 17 December 2017 Contact us

Gandalf rocked. And charmed. And captivated…

Sir Ian McKellen

He just walked in.
Completely unannounced.
And then suddenly a murmur of recognition ran through the audience as he stood at the front, bowed, and took sole ownership of the Sheldonian.
Yes, Sir Ian McKellen was being interviewed by Worcester College Professor Sir Jonathan Bate, a renowned Shakespearian scholar, but quite frankly he could have been from Mars.
All people had come to see, and listen to, was Sir Ian.
And I can see why.
Admittedly, I wasn’t interested in the Shakespeare angle of the talk and in truth, I wonder just how many other people in the audience were either. I just wanted to see one of this country’s greatest actors so I could say I had.
And the fact he had played Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of The Rings’ and sent himself up something rotten opposite Ricky Gervais in tv’s ‘Extras’ was all icing on the cake as far as I was concerned.
Reassuringly, he didn’t disappoint.
He was even, dare I admit it, very cool about Shakespeare.
He talked about his early years at Cambridge and explained how he first came face to face with the Bard.
“I was eight years old and living in Wigan, and my sister was going to take me to see an amateur production of Twelfth Night,” he explained.
“She was desperately trying to explain the story to me but I told her to stop.
“What’s the point in going to see it,” I said, “if I already know what’ll happen.”
“Anyway, it must have had a favourable reaction because shortly afterward we went to see Macbeth too.”
Clearly he was quite taken with Shakespeare and theatre in general because one Christmas Day he was given a toy theatre to play with, complete with cardboard cut-outs of Laurence Oliver and Jean Simmons performing Hamlet (now that’s an anecdote…).
Anyway it was a superb evening, and I think it likely if one more person had been allowed in, the the Sheldonian would have burst.

FT Weekend Title partner University of Oxford HSBC Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner Worcester College Worcester College: Festival college partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner BBC World Service International radio partner BBC Four Television Broadcast media partner British Academy HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Gibunco Group Sponsor of Gibraltar Lecture Galileo Foundation Italian Cultural Institute Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller Ian and Carol Sellars Lady Hatch Emily Rose and James Marrow George Warren Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design Marshall Maserati Festival courtesy cars The Macdonald Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Eynsham Hall Said Business School Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies New College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Cross College St Cross College Corpus Christi College The Queen’s College The Queen's College St John’s College St John's College Jesus College Hertford College Exeter College Exeter College St Hilda’s College Keble College Keble College Oxford University Press Princeton University Press Oxford Brookes University Oxford Cultural Collective K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography Ashmolean Museum Floris of London University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office The Oxford Times Regional media partner BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner Macdonald Bear Hotel Conference Oxford Critchleys Liaison Financial Services The Litmus Partnership British Humanist Association The Sheldonian Theatre Felicity Bryan Associates The Royal Society of Literature Oxford University Museum of Natural History The Story Museum Oxford City Council City Audio Visual OX magazine

FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival 2018 partners & sponsors

FT Weekend Title partner University of Oxford HSBC Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner Worcester College Worcester College: Festival college partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner BBC World Service International radio partner BBC Four Television Broadcast media partner British Academy HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Gibunco Group Sponsor of Gibraltar Lecture Galileo Foundation Italian Cultural Institute Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller Ian and Carol Sellars Lady Hatch Emily Rose and James Marrow George Warren Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design Marshall Maserati Festival courtesy cars The Macdonald Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Eynsham Hall Said Business School Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies New College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Cross College St Cross College Corpus Christi College The Queen’s College The Queen's College St John’s College St John's College Jesus College Hertford College Exeter College Exeter College St Hilda’s College Keble College Keble College Oxford University Press Princeton University Press Oxford Brookes University Oxford Cultural Collective K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography Ashmolean Museum Floris of London University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office The Oxford Times Regional media partner BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner Macdonald Bear Hotel Conference Oxford Critchleys Liaison Financial Services The Litmus Partnership British Humanist Association The Sheldonian Theatre Felicity Bryan Associates The Royal Society of Literature Oxford University Museum of Natural History The Story Museum Oxford City Council City Audio Visual OX magazine