McKellen and Barber bring double bill to London

Published April 17, 2008

The Royal Shakespeare Company productions of King Lear and Chekhov’s The Seagull, starring Ian McKellen and Frances Barber, are to transfer to the West End’s New London theatre on 12 November.

Trevor Nunn’s directorial double bill is currently playing in repertoire in Stratford until the end of June. The two plays will also run in rep during the London season, which follows a world tour.

In The Seagull, Frances Barber leads the cast as Arkadina, with McKellen sharing the role of Sorin with William Gaunt; while in King Lear – the closing production of the RSC’s Complete Works Festival – McKellen takes the title role and Barber plays Goneril.

Both leads were in the news when they first opened; Barber injured herself in a cycling accident causing the postponement of the press night for King Lear, while McKellen hit the headlines during previews after some theatregoers were reportedly shocked to find that he appears nude on stage in the Shakespeare.

Both Barber and McKellen have frequented the London stage on many occasions. Barber was in London last summer playing Cleopatra in Antony And Cleopatra at Shakespeare’s Globe; McKellen’s last appearance in the capital was in The Cut at the Donmar Warehouse in February 2006. The pair last worked together on slightly different fare – the Old Vic’s highly successful production of the pantomime Aladdin.

Commenting on the transfer of the two plays into the New London, RSC Executive Director Vikki Heywood said: “We are delighted that the company is getting the chance to perform in the New London. The RSC has played in a variety of venues in the capital, including past performances at the Haymarket, Playhouse and Trafalgar Studios, amongst others. We are also continuing our five year relationship with Cameron Mackintosh, whose theatres, including the Gielgud, Coward and Novello, have recently housed the Company’s London seasons to great box office success”.

A spokesman from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, which owns the New London, commented: “We are delighted to welcome the RSC to the New London. Our unique flexible stage and auditorium will allow for Trevor Nunn’s repertoire to transfer with ease from the Courtyard in Stratford.”

Currently at the New London is wacky entertainment show Blue Man Group, which closes on 24 June after a run of 18 months.

Booking for the RSC double bill opens in September.

CB