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McKellen, visiting China, never far from Shakespeare

Updated: 2016-06-13 07:19
By Shi Jing in Shanghai (China Daily)

Celebrating William Shakespeare's work in the 400th anniversary year of the English playwright's death, award-winning British actor Ian McKellen, better known for his portrayal of Gandalf in The Lord of Rings movie trilogy, made his debut on the stage and appeared at various places around China.

McKellen appeared on the red carpet Friday night for the opening ceremony of the 19th Shanghai International Film Festival. Together with celebrated Chinese mainland actor Jiao Huang, McKellen staged a performance in remembrance of Shakespeare in which he chanted The Seven Ages of Man, an excerpt from Shakespeare's play As You Like It. Jiao interpreted Hamlet.

McKellen's visit to China this time is part of the British Council's Shakespeare Live, a major program of events and activities geared for the 400th anniversary. As part of Shakespeare Live, the British Film Institute screened Richard III on Sunday at the film festival. McKellen starred and codirected the work.

As part of his schedule in Shanghai, McKellen went to Shanghai Theatre Academy for a lecture to the students only - professors were shut out. Interpreting the classic excerpts from Romeo and Juliet as well as Hamlet, McKellen shared his experiences performing Shakespeare for decades, highlighting the rich meanings and cultural connections of the text.

Adopting a folksy style, McKellen went to some tourist attractions in Shanghai during his stay in the city. A fan showed her picture on Weibo with the 77-year-old actor on Friday night on the Bund. A day later, McKellen was seen in the central People's Park, joining the crowd and holding a small banner with Shakespeare's words: "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind".

Unlike the Bund, People's Park is not a traditional tourist attraction but rather is known as a marriage market for residents. Each weekend, parents concerned about their children's marriage prospects post thousands of ads in the park, hoping to find a match.

McKellen made a small ad for himself on a piece of paper, writing down key items such as "Cambridge University", "house in London" and "still active".

McKellen is a well-known gay activist who came out at the age of 49 during a BBC radio interview and said in a later interview with the Daily Mail that it was the "best thing" he ever did.

Before his visit to Shanghai, McKellen was also spotted at attractions in Beijing, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. To promote the British Council's Shakespeare Live program, he carried a small banner with the Bard's lines wherever he went.

Zhang Kun contributed to this story.


 McKellen, visiting China, never far from Shakespeare

Actor Ian McKellen holds a small ad for himself at People's Park in Shanghai on Saturday. The park is known to locals as a marriage market. Screenshot from Weibo of British Council

(China Daily 06/13/2016 page4)

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