The Stage 100 2020: the most influential people in theatre revealed

Ian McKellen - Photo credit Sarah Dunn

The Stage 100: Ian McKellen tops 2020 power list for extraordinary nationwide tour, raising the profile of local theatres around the UK and more than £4 million towards arts projects across the country

The stage and screen star – best known for his Shakespearean performances and film work including Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings – has been named number one in The Stage 100, the definitive guide to the most influential figures working in the UK theatre and performing arts industry today. He is the first actor to ever top the list.

Full list available here

Ian McKellen, who came 24th in the 2019 list, has been propelled to the top of The Stage 100 after embarking on one of the most extraordinary undertakings of an already extraordinary career. His one-man show, Ian McKellen On Stage, saw the actor traverse the whole of the UK with an 80-date tour to celebrate his 80th birthday. The tour and subsequent West End run raised more than £4 million for theatres across the UK and theatre charities. All box office fees were kept by the host theatres, with McKellen giving his own time for free and encouraging them to spend that money on specific projects.

Ian McKellen said, “It’s been a joyful year taking my show to eighty-seven theatres up and down the country and meeting audiences of all ages, who relish live theatre as much as I do. All profits have stayed with the local theatres and finally, at the Harold Pinter Theatre, we’ve contributed to national theatre charities, from the National Youth Theatre to Denville Hall, where old colleagues end their days. I thank The Stage for putting me at the top of their list for 2020, an honour I share with the brilliant production team from ATG.”

Editor of The Stage Alistair Smith said: “It is hard to imagine another performer who could have pulled off such a feat, nor one who would have even thought of trying to. The tour was more than a celebration of Ian McKellen’s illustrious career, it was a love letter to theatre itself, and more specifically to local theatre. It was also an act of supreme generosity – the money he has raised will leave a very tangible legacy. While the argument of whether McKellen is the greatest actor of his generation is a moot point, it seems inarguable that his devotion to theatre – and especially theatre outside London – is unparalleled. Certainly, he has done more for theatre around the UK in 2019 than anyone else. We are very lucky to have him.”

Other figures featured in The Stage 100 2020 include Sonia FriedmanAndrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh – all of whom have held the top spot in previous years. Maggie Smith (50) also makes the list thanks to her first stage performance in more than a decade, while pantomime star Julian Clary (51) is featured for the first time thanks to his headlining performances at the London Palladium.

New entries include: Sheffield Theatres’ Robert Hastie and Dan Bates (16), David Greig and Mike Griffiths at Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh (43), Fuel’s Kate McGrath (49), designer Bunny Christie (88), Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch’s Douglas Rintoul and Mathew Russell (91) and Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s Elizabeth Newman and Kris Bryce (96).

High risers in the list include:

  • Cyrano de Bergerac director Jamie Lloyd (9) has risen 23 places
  • Sharon D Clarke (19) moves up 58 places, following her critically acclaimed performance in Death of a Salesman and Olivier Award-winning performance in Caroline, or Change
  • Emilia producer Eleanor Lloyd (35) has propelled up the list by 47 places
  • Lyric Hammersmith’s artistic director Rachel O’Riordan and executive director Sian Alexander (41) have moved up 28 places

Other entrants in The Stage 100 2020 include Sarah Frankcom (13), Matthew Bourne and Robert Noble (17), Kwame Kwei-Armah (20), Bristol Old Vic’s Tom Morris and Charlotte Geeves (32), Graeae’s Jenny Sealey (67) and designer Tom Scutt (85).

About Ian McKellen On Stage

• The tour started at the Space, McKellen’s local arts centre on the Isle of Dogs on January 25 2019, and finished at the Orkney Theatre in Kirkwall on August 28, more than 700 miles away. McKellen then added on an 80-date West End run at the Harold Pinter Theatre, which runs until January 5 2020.

• By the end of the tour and West End run, more than £4 million had been raised to help fund theatre charities and projects ranging from improved seating at the Albert Halls in Bolton (near where McKellen grew up) to supporting a three-week run of A Midsummer Night’s Dream designed for children on the autistic spectrum, produced by Flute Theatre and staged at the Bridge Theatre, London.

• Ian McKellen On Stage featured the actor delivering speeches from some of the Shakespearean roles he has played on stage, complemented with other parts he has made famous (Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings, Widow Twankey) and some more off-beat personal selections (a recitation a poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins). All this was interspersed with anecdotes about his life in the theatre and his experience as an activist for gay rights.

Other recent stage performances by McKellen have included King Lear (2018), No Man’s Land (2016), The Syndicate (2011), Waiting for Godot (2009), The Seagull (2007), King Lear (2007).

For more information about Ian McKellen, visit

IAN McKELLEN ON STAGE British theatre charities announced

Sir Ian McKellen shaking his bucket
  • £3 Million raised for venues throughout the UK
  • Ian Mckellen’s ground-breaking theatre journey returns to the West End this weekend
  • 10 charities named to receive all profits for the West End run

Following an unprecedented, sold-out tour which raised £3 million for 80 theatres throughout the UK, Ian McKellen’s 80th birthday theatre journey continues with a return to London for 80 further performances at the Harold Pinter Theatre from tonight, Friday 20th September.

All profits to the West End show will be donated to 10 charities which raise vital funds for a cross section of people involved with the arts; from young theatre makers just starting out to retired theatre professionals and people with disabilities working in the industry. They include Denville Hall, English Touring Theatre, Equal People, King’s Head Theatre, Mousetrap Theatre Projects, National Youth Theatre, Ramps on the Moon, Royal Welsh College, Streetwise Opera and U Can Productions.

A limited availability of tickets is still available via

Ian McKellen says:

“Having raised essential funds for regional theatres, I am delighted to bring this show to the West End where the beneficiaries will be British theatre charities selected by those involved with the daily running of the show.”


With Tolkien, Shakespeare, others… and you!
Presented by Ambassador Theatre Group Productions
Directed by Sean Mathias

Harold Pinter Theatre, Panton Street, London SW1Y 4DN

Performance schedule*

First performance: 20th September 2019
Last performance: 5th January 2020
Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30pm
Sunday at 3:00pm

*Performance on 1st November at 2:00pm
*No performances from 2nd – 7th November

*Christmas schedule:

23rd December at 7:30pm
24th December at 3:00pm
25th December No performance
26th December No performance
27th December at 7:30pm
28th December at 7:30pm
29th December at 7:30pm

Tickets from £10 at or


Edinburgh Festivals Diary – Day 3

To Assembly Hall for a very special EIF performance. Ian McKellen is celebrating his 80th birthday by performing extracts across his career, from Gandalf to Shakespeare and a brilliant revival of his panto dame Widow Twankey. 

The actor has already performed at 80 venues, raising £2 million for theatre charities by the time the current run ends in Orkney.

All profits from the tour will be used to support regional theatres and local drama provision. In Edinburgh, proceeds will support a bursary for an Edinburgh resident to study performance, as well as contributing to the refurbishment of the Drama Studio at Leith Academy, as part of the International Festival’s residency partnership with the school.

The show is a ebullient love letter to theatre and it is fifty years since McKellen last trod the boards at this somewhat intimate setting. 

If that wasn’t enough, next month he starts an 80-date west end run at the Harold Pinter theatre, raising funds for theatre charities. It was an unforgettable afternoon of recital, high jinks and reflection. 

Sir Ian McKellen shaking his bucket

Sir Ian McKellen shaking his bucket

As well as donating ticket sales, McKellen collects funds in a bucket after every performance  and wherever he goes, donates the takings to a cause specified by the organisation. 

I spot him on the stairs with collection bucket and hand over my loose change.

‘Carl! You get everywhere…’ said the octogenarian. 

‘Like dry rot?’ I suggested, smiling.  

‘Well, yes,’ he laughed, ‘but don’t worry, I still like you. Now give me your bloody money!’ 

Later, I head to Summerhall for Moot Moot.

You sometimes wonder what the second house Friday night at Glasgow Empire would have made of today’s Fringe acts and in Moot Moot’s case the answer is probably ‘torn to shreds’.

Moot Moot 

Moot Moot

It’s not entirely deserved, because their presentation is stylish and their creation of the world’s dullest radio chat show hosts ‘Barry and Barry’ are useful idiots, but their point about the futility of the format for meaningful discussion is made in the first five minutes and doesn’t survive even an Edinburgh hour.

After lunch I head to the Lyceum for Hard To Be Soft. Cast across fifty minutes and four episodes, the piece looks behind the masks of violence and masculinity to the inner lives of Belfast people.  

Hard To Be Soft, Lyceum Theatre

Hard To Be Soft, Lyceum Theatre

Belfast street life and religious ritual collide with liturgical dance and verbatim performance. Choreographer Oona Doherty exudes a powerful authority in this EIF-show that ranges from solo interludes, to electric all-female hip hop crew to solo rooted in pitiless vastness. Quite something. 

Taking time out from a relentless schedule is crucial. As is hydrating. I use the early evening to unwind, before heading back to Summerhall. 

Gavin Jon Wright and Daniel Portman star in Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair's Square Go

Gavin Jon Wright and Daniel Portman star in Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair’s Square Go

Square Go, one of a number of shows this year exploring toxic masculinity, revels in a charged, fun and occasionally demented adolescent energy as the Roundabout becomes a wrestling ring. Gary McNair and Kieran Hurley’s two-hander returns and it really is a highly entertaining and brilliant hour of Scottish banter.

My WhatsApp pings – a message from Park Theatre’s Founder and Artistic Director Jez Bond. 

‘Right so tonight I will be at Abbatoir after my last show – about 11pm. Wanna join?’ 

‘Absolutely. See you later – don’t get too excited.’ I replied. 

So, I walked to the Underbelly’s members bar at George Square – you need a shiny black card to slip in after dark – to be greeted warmly by Jez and his colleague Mark Cameron. The place is a kind of Soho House style for performers and industry folk in Bistro Square

I have a large glass of white wine and stand outside on the terrace – on my best behaviour, of course. My eyeballs usually freeze spending time in these kinds of places. But it was good to meet and chat with the cast and crew of fringe hit Four Woke Baes and see Jez. 

Anyway, I’d rather scratch my eyes out than see a show at 11.55pm. But Richard Gadd’s intense 65-minute Baby Reindeer, also at Summerhall, was a hot ticket. This was one of thing several additional late night performance added due to demand. Jon Britain’s production is angry, revelatory and visceral. 

Baby Reindeer. Photograph: Andrew Perry

Baby Reindeer. Photograph: Andrew Perry

It tells Gadd’s shocking experience of being stalked by a woman he met while working in a bar in London. Gadd delivers blistering insights into the horrifying failures of the police system. 

(The police said they were unable to help.)

A transfer to Bush Theatre was announced in the wee hours of Friday morning – lucky London. 

Ian McKellen On Stage runs from 20 September to 5 January 2020.

Hard to be Soft: A Belfast Prayer is at the Southbank Centre on 11 October. 

Baby Reindeer runs at London’s Bush Theatre, from 9 October to 9 November.

Hollywood A- Listers lend support to campaign for statue of iconic playwright Joe Orton in his hometown of Leicester

A host of celebrities including Sir Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry, Alec Baldwin, Kenneth Cranham and Sheila Hancock are lending their support to a fundraising campaign to have a statue of the iconic British playwright Joe Orton erected in his hometown of Leicester.

The fundraising campaign, Joe Orton Statue Appeal ( has been organised by a committee of Orton fans in Leicester and is headed by his sister, Leonie Orton (pictured with Sir Ian McKellen) and Dr Emma Parker, a leading Orton expert at the University of Leicester, home of the Orton archive, which includes manuscripts, letters and other original material written, compiled or collected by the playwright.

Acting legend Sir Ian Mckellen is an active supporter of the fundraising campaign saying:

“’The idea that in Orton Square there should be a statue, a memorial to Joe Orton, is terrific”.

Upon hearing of the fundraising campaign, Hollywood A Lister Alec Baldwin said about the writer:

“I have craved Orton’s writing for a long time, whether I’m sitting in the audience or performing in the cast. There are no comparisons. He’s a true original. Half poet, half devil’s apprentice. I never tire of his wit, soul and anarchy.”

Actor, writer and national treasure Stephen Fry added:

“’Joe Orton has always been a hero to me, both in his work and in the authenticity, wit and wonder of his life. A statue is a wonderful idea”

Born in Leicester and raised on the Saffron Lane council estate, Orton shocked, outraged, and amused audiences with his scandalous black comedies such as Loot, Entertaining Mr Sloane and What the Butler Saw.  His career, although short lived, was incredibly significant, influencing future generations of writers, so much so that his unique style has given rise to the adjective ‘Ortonesque’ to describe work that blends the comic and the macabre. His life, as revealed in his diaries, was as scandalous as his plays, and he died tragically at the age of 34, murdered by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, in 1967.

One of only a handful of memorials to LGBT icons in the UK, a fundraising platform has been set up to meet the projected cost of £100,000 to design, create and site the statue within a prominent position in the city of Leicester. The design of the statue will be subject to a competition where artists will be asked to represent a likeness of Orton in a suitably ‘Ortonesque’ way. It is hoped that the statue, the favoured location of which is Orton Square by Curve, at the heart of the Cultural Quarter, will become a symbol of Leicester’s significant literary heritage and passionate commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

Leonie Orton, who administers the estate of Joe Orton with her sister Marilyn, said:

“A statue of Joe will ensure that a great writer is not forgotten, raise awareness of Leicester’s rich literary heritage and serve as an inspirational reminder that talent is everywhere and art is for everyone, regardless of social background or circumstance.”

The launch of the Joe Orton Statue Appeal will take place at Curve at 5.30pm on 25th July where invited guests and Orton fans will be presented with a short fundraising film from Sir Ian McKellen and Leonie Orton, as well as being given the first opportunity to pledge their support to the statue’s funding. Those wishing to pledge their support can do so at

Guests will also be able to take part in a silent auction to bid for rare items from the Orton Archive, exclusive theatre experiences and Orton artwork and there are some once in a lifetime  rewards for donating on offer including the chance to have your photo taken wearing Orton’s coat, that inspired his famous statement: ‘Cheap clothes suit me. I’m from the gutter. And don’t you ever forget it because I won’t.’ and the chance to have his favourite actor Kenneth Cranham come to their house and read from the Orton Diaries.

The fundraising campaign is supported by the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council, Curve, Fraser Urquhart Media and Big Difference Company. Donations can be made at


Guest Blog: Leon Fleming: “It’s about making noise and raising cash and doing whatever we can to help a persecuted people in Chechnya while the majority of our media and politicians turn their faces away.”

Click on the image to book your tickets now!

This week for three nights only we’re putting on a double-bill of short plays and a panel discussion in response to horrific reports which have been leaked out of Chechnya regarding the rounding-up, imprisonment, humiliation, torture, and murder of gay and bisexual men in the region. Thursday to Saturday, 11-13 May at the Theatre Delicatessen Old Library in Elephant and Castle.

And you have to come. It’s imperative that you come. This is going to be a fantastic entertaining, informative, important, visceral, empowering, encompassing event. But more than that, it’s about making noise and raising cash and doing whatever we can to help a persecuted people in Chechnya while the majority of our media and politicians turn their faces away.

Around a month ago we first started hearing the stories. At first only the LGBT press were even remotely interested. Gradually other mainstream news sources started carrying the story, and looking further into it. We already know the whole of Russia have for the last few years being exercising a programme of pushing LGBT people further into the margins of society.

Rehearsal Images

Rehearsal Images

But for the first time since the rise of Nazism in Germany have gay men being actually rounded-up by authorities and placed into prison camps where they are being tortured with electricity, beatings, starvation. And those that are let go, are taken to their families who are intrusted to kill their own children in order to restore family honour.

What world is this?

And in Europe?  And only seventy years since the last time it happened!

So, we’re putting on plays; because we don’t know what else to do. I wrote Boris Got Buggered in 2013 when Putin ratified his gay-propaganda law federally; it’s a satire on the way governments use the machinery of the civil service in order to remove humanity from statute, and how this particular law silences LGBT people. The second play, Ramzanland is Freedomland has been written in the last two weeks in direct response to the reports which have come out of Chechnya. Again it involves satire, because I felt that only through satire could I even begin to demonstrate the horror. We’ve even got Ian McKellen in on the act, lending us his voice.

It’s all down to director Scott Le Crass really; from the minute I said I wanted to write a rapid-response piece, he’s been on it. On top of the plays, there will also be a panel discussion each night. Because we need to talk about what is going on, and how we can keep the noise going, the pressure up, and how we can help. And we need to raise cash; in this case for Amnesty International UK. This year marks 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, and our authorities have been guilty of some of the same things as the Chechen authorities. That can’t be ignored. We, and our government have a responsibility to our dark recent history to do something.


Thursday 11 – Saturday 13 May 7:30pm

Theatre Delicatessen Old Library, 39 Wells Way, London, SE5 0PX