Sheffield knights to remember as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen bring Pinter to Yorkshire

HOLLYWOOD stars and knights of the realm Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen are to appear on stage together in Sheffield this summer.

Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

The actors, known to millions around the world thanks to roles in Hollywood movies like X-Men and Lord of the Rings, will perform on the stage of Sheffield’s Lyceum in the Harold Pinter masterpiece No Man’s Land in August.

While they have acted together in the play on Broadway in New York and in London’s West End, it is the first time the pair will have appeared on stage together in Yorkshire.

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The pair famously spent much of last year on stage together in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, in a much acclaimed production which saw tickets changing hands for thousands of pounds.

In Pinter’s No Man’s Land they will be directed by the acclaimed director who put them together in Waiting for Godot, Sean Mathias.

Mirfield-born Mr Stewart, one of Yorkshire’s most famous sons, said: “Sheffield is very important to me, because it was at the old Sheffield Rep that I got my first full acting job. I’d been an assistant stage manager at Lincoln, and then I got a call from Sheffield. I think I played the boyfriend in The Reluctant Debutante. I had a hairpiece. It was lovely.

“And I know the Lyceum as the location where I saw most of the pantomimes of my teenage years.”

Mr Stewart, 75, a former chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, has regularly spoken of his love for Yorkshire and his appreciation for a grant from Wakefield Council to study acting.

In 1987 Mr Stewart was cast as the captain of the Starship Enterprise in TV’s Star Trek. Playing Jean-Luc Picard opened up opportunities for the actor in Hollywood and he went on to play Professor Charles Xavier in the global franchise of the X-Men.

Sir Ian McKellen, also a classically trained stage actor, followed his good friend Mr Stewart to Hollywood. He had a more varied screen career, but when he was cast as Magneto in the X-Men franchise and later as Gandalf the wizard in Lord of the Rings, he was introduced to a wider global audience.

In Pinter’s No Man’s Land, they play two ageing writers who meet in a pub to get drunk and compete with each other.

Mr McKellen says: “Playing Spooner to Patrick’s Hirst on Broadway was a constant joy, which is why I am delighted to be back with him. I love touring. It goes back to my youth. If you were brought up as I was in south Lancashire, there were local theatres doing plays but it was at the touring theatres in Manchester and Liverpool that I saw the leading actors of my youth.

“It’s not so common now but I think it’s so important. Actors are rogues and vagabonds, we should be on the road. And the welcome is always magnificent, people really appreciate it that you’ve come to their region.”

It’s not the first time that Sheffield has had high profile actors on its stages: Kenneth Branagh played Richard III at the Crucible in 2002, Derek Jacobi appeared in Don Carlos in 2004, and in recent years John Simm has played Hamlet and Dominic West has played Iago in Macbeth and Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady.

No Man’s Land will tour the country before a run in London’s West End, starting the tour at Sheffield’s Lyceum August 3 to 13.

Tickets go on sale at 9am March 12 for Sheffield Theatres members and to the general public on March 19 either in person from the box office or on 0114 2496000.