A report from a local in New Zealand:
I travelled to Wellington to see Ian McKellen’s one man show in support of a theatre in Christchurch which miraculously survived the big quake but the 10,000 after shocks has left the building needing a lot of expensive repair. My sister lives in Wellington so I was staying with her and she was coming to the show with me. There were rumours that the cast of the Hobbit would attend but I tried not to get my hopes up.
We arrived at the theatre and positioned ourselves on the stairs so we could see who was arriving. First we saw Martin Freeman and shortly thereafter Richard Armitage. He had a quiet demeanour and although he greeted some friends was left alone by the people in the lobby. He has a bit more hair on top, dark, and the beard is as we have seen before, perhaps a bit bushier. I think he was wearing the Spooks series 8 jacket – the one with leather trim along the raised collar. He was also wearing a thick black long sleeved Tshirt and black jeans. He took his seat a few rows back from the rest of the cast which seemed to include most of the kiwis, and Aidan Turner, Billy Connolly, James Nesbitt and Luke Evans. I was in the circle and couldn’t actually see him from my seat.
The show started and it was a magical show. It was definitely an audience who knew their Shakespeare and of course NZers are as fond of Sir Ian as he is of NZ. The first half of the show began with a passage from The Hobbit, and then he talked about JRR Tolkein and previous Hobbit productions, and wielded his sword which is very large and very beautiful. He then admitted that there are 2 versions of the sword, an aluminum one for fighting and a heavier one for ceremonial occasions. The audience was then invited to ask him any questions they liked, and it was a very merry story telling session until intermission.
Spotted RA again (it is helpful that he is tall) but he did not stay in the lobby long.There were a lot of people in the lobby, and I was feeling rather shy myself, so didn’t approach him.
The 2nd half of the show was all about Shakespeare with soliloquies from a number of plays. The audience loved it and there were some spellbinding moments.
AND THEN he invited the Hobbit cast on stage. I’m sure you can guess who waited at the back of the queue as they all climbed the stairs to the stage, and there was quite a number. RA was holding a collection bucket, as were other cast members and I started to get a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach. Members of the audience were then also invited on stage and Ian gave them some instructions we could not hear. What he was telling them to do was to fall down as if dead at a particular point in the next speech, which is what they all did. I took a video with my pretty poor camera which is now on You Tube. The One Ring Site has one with better audio, and the bows at the end, but mine has lightly more RA:
And then the show ended. We headed out to the lobby, and there were members of the cast with buckets collecting but no sign of RA. Luke Evans, James Nesbitt and Aidan Turner I spotted, but where was RA? After a bit of waiting we decided he must still be in the theatre stalls area, and headed in there. There was a large queue waiting to talk to Martin Freeman but only about half a dozen talking to RA. He was chatting to an expat English family while they all took photos with him. And then it was my turn. Summoning my courage I asked him if he would sign my book, a copy of The Hobbit of course. He said “Good book” and I said I had thought I should read it before the film came out. He asked me my name, and then said he would also put his character’s name after his signature in the book (being an unassuming chap he thought I wouldn’t already know-as if!). I asked if he had enjoyed his time in NZ, and he said he loved New Zealand. I said that I really enjoyed his performances and he said “oh bless you”. I then asked how much longer he would be Thorin and he said about a month. At this point (and yes, I did make a donation in the bucket while all this was going on) I was too shy to ask for a photo, but I was so thrilled to have had a short conversation with him that it felt like an imposition to ask him for a photo as well as the autograph. I wished him good luck with the rest of the filming, and moved on.
I think he may be very tired as they near the end of filming as he was very still. There was not an ounce of “movie star” in his manner. I wouldn’t say he was shy, but certainly not someone to push himself forward.
Thank you NZfan!
I feel the urge to start making grand pronouncements about this wonderful fellow we’ve all decided to follow, but I’ll try to refrain for now. Maybe our friend in New Zealand will be so kind as to fill us in on some things if we ask nicely. :D