Sir Ian McKellen launches Georgian Theatre Royal fundraising campaign

Theatre chief executive, Clare Allen with Sir Ian and chair of the trustees Malcolm Bryant.

World-famous actor Sir Ian McKellen – best known for his Shakespearean performances and for his role as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings – has launched a major new fundraising campaign for the Georgian Theatre Royal.

Sir Ian, who performed his 80th birthday solo show at the theatre on Friday, launched the campaign to raise £150,000 a year over the next four years.

Built in 1788, the Georgian Theatre Royal occupies a unique and special place in theatrical history as the oldest working theatre in its original form in the UK.

Today, as well as hosting a full and varied programme of live performances, it attracts thousands of visitors who take guided tours of the Grade 1 listed building.

The theatre’s new A Living Theatre Campaign aims to ensure the future of this unique historic playhouse and see it flourish as a community resource of creative excellence.

The culmination of the campaign in 2023 has been timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the theatre’s re-opening, following more than 200 years of closure when it was converted for other uses, including a wine store and auction house.

The theatre’s chief executive, Clare Allen, explained why the campaign was necessary.

“Even with full houses every night and income from our heritage tours, it is not possible to meet the rising costs of running, repairing and maintaining the historic building from money alone that we can generate.

“The renowned actor manager Samuel Butler opened his theatre in Richmond in 1788 but 60 years later it was forced to close due to a decline in income. As the theatre approaches the 60th anniversary of its 1963 re-opening, we are determined not to let history repeat itself.

 “We are therefore asking people to give to our Campaign so that together we can preserve this theatrical gem as part of the nation’s cultural heritage. We are incredibly grateful to Sir Ian for giving his whole-hearted backing to this worthwhile cause,” she said.

Sir Ian McKellen is a major supporter and advocate for live theatre and his current 80th birthday tour has been organised to benefit specific causes at each theatre.

“Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience.

“Growing up in Lancashire, I was grateful to those companies who toured beyond London and I’ve always enjoyed repaying that debt by touring up and down the country myself, with the RSC, the National Theatre, Prospect Theatre, the Actors’ Company, as well as with commercial productions.

“My current UK tour celebrating my 80th birthday is visiting many theatres I know well and others that I care about. So I’m delighted to be back in the country’s oldest working theatre, whose intimacy suits my new solo show of anecdote and acting. All profits are to benefit this precious Theatre Royal.”

To support the Georgian Theatre Royal’s A Living Theatre Campaign, individuals can either pledge a given amount on a regular basis, which can be as little as £5 per month, or make a one-off donation.

Click here for more information.