Saturday, 19 January 2019 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 BBC World Service International radio partner Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner Worcester College Worcester College: Festival college partner Irish Embassy, London Supporters of the Irish programme Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Sponsors of the programme of American literature and culture The Dorchester Hotels Collection Festival London hotel partner Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller Head of Zeus The Macdonald Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Italian Cultural Institute HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Gibunco Group Sponsor of Gibraltar Lecture British Academy BBC Four Television Broadcast media partner Earthwatch Europe Ian and Carol Sellars Emily Rose and James Marrow Jill Dunsmore New College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Cross College St Cross College Jesus College St Hilda’s College St John’s College St John's College The Queen’s College The Queen's College Exeter College Exeter College Hertford College Keble College Keble College Oxford Brookes University The Feathers Hotel Said Business School University of Oxford Mathematical Institute Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies The Oxford Times Regional media partner BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design The Royal Society of Literature Royal Literary Fund Princeton University Press Felicity Bryan Associates University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office Conference Oxford Oxford University Images Oxford University Images The Sheldonian Theatre Oxford University Press Floris of London Critchleys City Audio Visual Bayard Presse Eynsham Hall Macdonald Bear Hotel Sloane Club Ashmolean Museum British Humanist Association The Story Museum Oxford City Council The Litmus Partnership K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography OX magazine Liaison Financial Services Steer

FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival partners & sponsors

FT Weekend Title partner University of Oxford BBC World Service International radio partner Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner Worcester College Worcester College: Festival college partner Irish Embassy, London Supporters of the Irish programme Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Sponsors of the programme of American literature and culture The Dorchester Hotels Collection Festival London hotel partner Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller Head of Zeus The Macdonald Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Italian Cultural Institute HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Gibunco Group Sponsor of Gibraltar Lecture British Academy BBC Four Television Broadcast media partner Earthwatch Europe Ian and Carol Sellars Emily Rose and James Marrow Jill Dunsmore New College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Cross College St Cross College Jesus College St Hilda’s College St John’s College St John's College The Queen’s College The Queen's College Exeter College Exeter College Hertford College Keble College Keble College Oxford Brookes University The Feathers Hotel Said Business School University of Oxford Mathematical Institute Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies The Oxford Times Regional media partner BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design The Royal Society of Literature Royal Literary Fund Princeton University Press Felicity Bryan Associates University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office Conference Oxford Oxford University Images Oxford University Images The Sheldonian Theatre Oxford University Press Floris of London Critchleys City Audio Visual Bayard Presse Eynsham Hall Macdonald Bear Hotel Sloane Club Ashmolean Museum British Humanist Association The Story Museum Oxford City Council The Litmus Partnership K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography OX magazine Liaison Financial Services Steer