Ian McKellen’s age-blind Hamlet faces setbacks as two key actors drop out days before opening

McKellen as Hamlet (Elliott Franks)
McKellen as Hamlet (Elliott Franks)

Ian McKellen’s age-blind version of Hamlet has faced further setbacks after two lead actors dropped out days before opening night.

The new production, in which the 82-year-old actor stars as Shakespeare’s Danish prince, will open to a full house on Monday (19 July) at Theatre Royal Windsor after a month of previews.

The Mail on Sunday now reports that two of the show’s primary actors have now dropped out of the show after clashes in rehearsals that reportedly left McKellen “under strain” and “in tears”.

The actors playing Polonius (Steven Berkoff) and Laertes (Emmanuella Cole) will not appear in the production. A complaint against Berkoff was made by Cole to actor’s union Equity.

The Independent has contacted Berkoff and Cole’s representatives for comment.

However, director Sean Mathias told The Guardian that the rumours of McKellen crying were “a load of rubbish”.

“We’re all under strain… there’s a pandemic and we’re making Hamlet,” he said. “We’ve had four understudies on in the past week... we’re all under strain. In tears? Absolutely not… a load of rubbish.

‘Hamlet’ opens on Tuesday (Getty)
‘Hamlet’ opens on Tuesday (Getty)

“Actors have disagreements all the time in productions and you try to work them out – and sometimes you don’t. The fact that neither of them are in the production at the moment is to do with other reasons.”

Mathiaso said that Berkoff had dropped out due to schedule “clashes” and that, as the same company will also appear in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard later this year, “it seemed wiser to let him go now and bring someone else in”.

It’s been 50 years since McKellen last played Hamlet on stage, first performing the role in a UK and European tour with Prospect Theatre Company in 1971.

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