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

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