It's been a week since the trip and I am still floating on a cloud of happiness. That's how awesome this trip was.
I'd only looked forward to meeting you guys and seeing Ian for what? nearly a year. So yeah, there was a lot of anticipation. Last weekend kumadapuma
, and I all traveled from different places and met in NYC. Although Genkai and I had met about a month earlier, Kuma and I had never met before. It was strange to meet people I've known for a year and yet not known. I think I was actually nervous about it. I got all dressed up and babbled like I usually do when I'm nervous. But now that I've met Kuma and Genkai I feel closer to them and more comfortable than ever. And I'm sad we don't live closer so we could meet up more often.
NYC was different than I remembered. I think I had forgotten how crowded the streets were in the tourist district and how friendly random strangers were offering helpful advice. I also had a very rosy view of the NY subway system, which now that I think about it, I've gotten lost/confused in previously. We hit a weekend with lots of construction. Not cool. It actually made (I can't believe I'm saying this) the Pittsburgh bus system seem like it functioned well and was easier to understand. Even so, every time I come to NY I remember how much I'd love to live there once. It calls to me like this big unwieldy beast that I'd like to tame. It's the center of everything; the financial world literally turns on its access. Every minute of everything something novel and unique is happening in NY. But it's also absurdly crowded and expensive. I've lived on the outskirts, but never right there in Manhattan. I'll have to do it once.
I love watching Shakespeare adaptations and comparing several. I seriously do this for fun. I've seen like 8 versions of Hamlet just to compare the various acting of Kenneth Branaugh, Lawrence Olivier, Derek Jabobi, etc. I'm still working on renting some other versions of Lear in order to compare them to McKellen's. I want to be able to definitively say his was the best. All I can say right is that it was phenomenal.
Like Genkai said the 3 1/2 hours of King Lear went by very fast. Our seats weren't the best; we were a little too far to make out the subtle facial expressions. The set was rather traditional: few props, thrust stage, and a balcony. The costumes were as Genkai described - a strange mix of eras. There was a strong Tsarist Russian theme in the soldiers uniforms and Lear's robes. But the daughters, showing their different and dynamic personalities, went from medieval outfits (though Cordelia's appeared a more modern evening gown) all the way to French revolutionary war. And in the end the whole Lear family was shown in white.
And yes, Ian McKellen stripped nude in Act III. Completely nude. I feel like he's such a serious actor and this was such a serious role that he was doing his utmost to portray as best he could, that its rude for me to vulgarly tell the whole interwebs what he looked like. All I will say is he has nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of. I only wish I looked half so good at 68. (Don't worry though, I made sure to savor the image as best I could in my mind and shall carry it with me always. I will never forget.) If anything the nudity distracted from the play though. The audience gasped. Kuma and I started to salivate and pant. But it certainly fit with him as a person. Ian's so open about his sexuality that it seemed fitting for him to strip nude and think nothing of it.
I was surprised by how truly moving the ending was. I'd read the play of course, but the written page can't do what the Royal Shakespeare Company can. The end of Act III and the end of Act V sent shivers up my spine. I cried through most of Act V. Ian's grief over Cordelia's body - it was just heart wrenching. I feel like I'd seen some of the best acting in history and it was over way too quickly.
Afterward, the three of us frantically searched for where to wait for Ian. We did manage to find him and get his autograph! I'm even getting it framed! And we got to take pictures of him. I was oddly amazed that his voice was just as rich and wonderful in real life as in the movies. If anything he seems a lot like his character's in real life - smart, dignified, handsome, learned, commanding, and charismatic. He's not truly Magneto - but he's damn close. He's really too sexy for his own good, lol. I was so awestruck by his mere presence, something that never happens to me with celebrities. That's because most celebrities are just famous normal people. But Ian is at the very top of his profession. I wasn't meeting a celebrity; I was meeting greatness and yeah, I felt unworthy. I managed to compliment him over the way he said "Never, never, never" one of the last lines of the play. At first I thought this was a rather dull-witted thing to say. But then I read a professional critic who said basically the same exact thing and I didn't feel nearly so dense.
"McKellen, intoning 'never' over Cordelia’s corpse like an old, muffled church bell: a hauntingly painful ending to one of his finest performances." - Benedict Nightingale, The Times
See I wasn't the only one who was floored by that line.
Overall I wish we'd had more time with him. I would have loved an official picture with him with the 3 of us. And at first I was really upset we hadn't had closer seats. But I learned later through this remarkable video interview
that his performance in King Lear will be filmed and eventually released on DVD. So now I don't feel nearly so bad. I'm going to buy that video the very second it comes out. It hasn't even been filmed, edited, or released yet and I'm desperate to pre-order it through Amazon with the very fastest shipping possible.
Other important points from the video interview - did you know Ian was single? I didn't.
He's so adorable in the interview I'm writing naughty RPF based on it. Watch it. You won't be able to resist either.