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McKellen: Playing The Part



Released: 1st June 2018

Directed By: Joe Stephenson

Starring: Sir Ian McKellen

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

A titan of the theatre, who has been no stranger to the prose of Pinter and Shakespeare. A screen veteran, casting a spell on many a cinemagoer whether it be in a world heavily populated with mutants or hobbits.

The remarkable body of work of Sir Ian McKellen has transcended many a generation and beyond the realms of entertainment, with his pioneering thought heavily influencing the LGBTQ community and the wider world.

Making his mark in 2015 with the stellar directorial debut ‘Chicken’. Joe Stephenson delivers a deeply engrossing first-person insight into the beloved actor, who is wonderfully self-deprecating and reflective from the outset, as both subject and director look to avoid the intrusive confessional style of a bygone era.

Spliced with mesmeric archival footage and monochrome reconstructions of memorable moments of his youth. Mckellen unearthed his own sense of wonder in the modesty of Wigan, interpreting market stall holders and the fair as a little show, with the love of his eventual profession instilled by his dear mother. His intimate style of storytelling almost soothing in its sincere and open-hearted nature.

Skillfully commenting on the monopoly of stage productions in London perhaps lacking impact due to such saturation, compared to a city frightfully light on culture whose inhabitants could clearly benefit, proving a timely reminder of the fights various arts councils across the UK continue to face. Peppered with sweet anecdotes about his esteemed company, as Derek Jacobi and Dame Judi Dench ride high in the pecking order, reflecting on his time at Cambridge University and the stage.

It’s inevitably made all the more poignant by the repression of his homosexuality in the first half of his career. Proving tactful in the handling of intrusive questions from journalists, at a time the despicable Conservative law of Section 28 passed in 1988, was banning the mere mention of same-sex relationships within schools and by local authorities.

Becoming increasingly vocal and relaxed in his own skin in the fierce fight for equal rights, the cinematic canvas only broadened, endearing him to legions of new fans becoming acquainted with his Magneto or Gandalf. Yet his initial admittance of nerves to make the transfer from stage to screen, merely fearing the production crew being judgmental about his performance, displays a stark level of vulnerability in the actor who has often reveled in ‘showing off’.

At the ripe age of 79. Refusing to deny himself the pleasure of his great love, speaking eloquently about life and death, whilst fearing when it will be his last performance. We can only pray Sir Ian continues to bless us with his warmth and wit for many years yet.

As a delightful documentary and tender tribute to one of Britain’s best. Does ‘Mckellen: Playing The Part’ pass? With flying rainbow colours.

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