Stage and screen legend Sir Ian McKellen is to give a brace of one-man shows in his home town as part of an exclusive 80th birthday tour.
And the acclaimed actor will be going back to where it all began for him career-wise: Wigan Little Theatre.
Although born in Burnley, Sir Ian lived in Wigan from a few months old until he was 12 and it was in the town that he enjoyed his first experiences of the stage as an audience member.
He is a regular visitor back to Wigan and, indeed, made a sell-out solo appearance at the Old Courts during last year’s Pride Festival.
Other returns have included more than once popping in to WLT, having a look round his childhood home in Parson’s Walk, visiting nearby Mesnes Park and being in attendance for his star to be installed in the Wigan Walk of Fame in Believe Square.
He said: “I’m celebrating my 80th birthday by touring a new solo show to theatres I know well and a few that I don’t.
“The show starts with Gandalf and will probably end with an invitation to act with me on stage.
“Inbetween there will be anecdotes and acting. I open at my local arts centre in January and end up by August in Orkney.
“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.
“As a boy in the 1940s, I saw my first Shakespeare at Wigan Little Theatre – and loved it.
“So in my new show there will be Shakespeare and memories of growing up in Wigan, where I first acted and discovered the delights of theatre, amateur and professional.
“It’s also a chance to inspect my star in Wigan’s Believe Square!
“All profits will support training and workshops for volunteers at WLT. See you there, I hope!”
Sir Ian - who has played roles as diverse as King Lear, Sherlock Holmes and Magneto in the X-Men movie series - will be appearing at Wigan Little Theatre on May 13 and 14 next year.
WLT chairman Paul Dawson said: “We’re so delighted that Sir Ian has included us in his tour of hand-picked venues, to celebrate his 80th birthday.
“We’re proud of his early association with the theatre and his experience here as a child is what we strive to replicate for everyone who comes through our doors.
“If we can inspire people of all ages to get on stage, work backstage, in the gallery, or work front of house, then we’re doing our job and keeping up tradition for future generations.”
Ian McKellen On Stage is presented by Ambassador Theatre Group.
Tickets are expected to be at a premium with only 460 up for grabs over two evenings at the diminutive venue. Details of how they can be purchased have yet to be finalised.
A WLT spokeswoman urged readers to keep an eye out for updates on the WLT website, with news expected “very soon.”