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Today brings yet another reason to admire Sir Ian McKellen: the British actor is returning to the stage in a role he last played nearly 50 years ago.

McKellen, 81, is to star in a new “age-blind” production of William Shakespeare‘s Hamlet being put on by producer Bill Kenwright and director Sean Mathias at England’s Theatre Royal Windsor. Socially distanced rehearsals are due to begin Monday, The Guardian reports, although it remains to be seen when the play will actually be able to take place.

All theaters in the U.K. have been closed since March and it’s feared that some may run out of money before they can reopen again. To raise money for London’s famous Old Vic, Matt Smith and Claire Foy are reuniting in a live-streamed, socially distanced version of the play Lungs.

McKellen definitely deserves kudos for taking on the role of Prince Hamlet, which is generally played by actors in their twenties or thirties. He previously played the role in the U.K. and on tour in Europe back in 1970.

McKellen said: “I feel lucky to be working again, thanks to Bill Kenwright’s inspiring optimism and Sean Mathias’s invitation to re-examine Hamlet, 50 years on from my first go. So now we will meet again. Don’t know when, but do know where – Theatre Royal Windsor!”

Mathias added: “We walk a tightrope through the forest whilst we await news of when we may actually perform in front of a live audience, but it will be invigorating to leave the house and get into a rehearsal room and be a part of British theatre returning to the boards.”

After Hamlet, McKellen will also star in a Theatre Royal Windsor production of Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard. Once again, though, it’s not known when the play will actually be able to begin performances.

We recently celebrated Sir Ian McKellen’s sterling work as an LGBTQ activist by making him our British Icon of the Week.

Are you surprised by Sir Ian McKellen’s decision to play Hamlet again?

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Filed Under: Sir Ian McKellen
By Nick Levine