Sir Ian Mckellen
Our Patron, Sir Ian McKellen came to Bolton Little Theatre to perform his one act show prior to taking it to New York. He gave us excerpts from Henry V, Lord of the Rings and many others.
Whilst at the theatre he took time to be interviewed by members of the youth group and had kindly agreed to record the opening speech from Little Shop of Horrors that was to be presented later that year. Unfortunately he hadn’t realised that it would be on video so he had to learn it. It was a treat we will always remember. It shows how an actor of his experience learns lines but has the character right from the first word.
Mind you it did take 17 takes all together!
“I first started going to a BLT youth group run by the fantastic Tom Campbell back in the mid eighties. The group already had a reputation for having put on some amazing productions and when I got there the stable of young acting talent was impressive and intimidating! Tom had them working at a level of maturity beyond their years. I already knew Mike Rogers and Rhys Thomas, and along with Jo Cowen and Christine Boardman I was made to feel at home right away. The five of us are still friends to this day. Our first production – in the bar – was After Liverpool, a series of quick-fire linked two-handers. The atmosphere was incredible. I’d only ever been involved in school productions before and it was a real eye opener to see people of my age behaving so professionally, expecting such high standards of themselves and achieving them. This was entirely down to Tom who was nothing short of inspirational. Being around this enthusiasm was infectious. Influenced by the others, I started reading plays like they were going out of fashion. By the time I got to University I had read all of Ibsen, Chekhov, Miller, amongst many others, for fun. I would never have had such a passion for it if it hadn’t been for my involvement in the Little Theatre.
“The real high point came in the Summer of 1985 (I think) when we took a production of The Passion to a European Youth Theatre festival in St Poulten, Austria. We drove across Europe in a camper van. The festival was the final push for me into knowing this was what I wanted to do with my life. The production was an enormous success. We performed outdoors, at night, in the ruins of an old castle. It was extraordinary. Unforgettable.
“Later that year I auditioned for the main theatre and an adult production for the first time, and got one of the four parts in a Dario Fo play, Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay. I suspect I wasn’t very good in it. But I beat one of my teachers to the part which was endlessly satisfying!!!
“I went to University in 1986, so that was my time at the theatre done, but it was a transforming experience for me in every way. It made me passionate about theatre, it gave me invaluable experience and with it, confidence. But above all, it gave me friends for life and for that, I’ll always be in Bolton Little Theatre’s debt.”