Gandalf rocked. And charmed. And captivated…
He just walked in.
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.