Acting technique, directing, endurance in the profession, sexual identity and the vital role of Equity all formed part of a lively discussion between Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Richard Eyre, Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance President, in the College’s Rose Theatre on the evening of Wednesday 1 June.

Professor Michael Earley, Rose Bruford College Principal and Chief Executive, who arranged their visit said: “We were delighted to host such a wonderful conversation between Sir Richard Eyre, our College President, and Sir Ian McKellen, one of our greatest and most recognised actors. Students were thrilled they could join us.”

The two legends of theatre and film, who have worked together on stage and screen in a range of productions including Richard III and The Dresser, entertained and enthralled over 300 students, plus many more who were watching via a live video stream.

Richard Eyre reflected on his long years of friendship with Ian McKellen, which stretched back to student days at Cambridge University, and on their different projects together, talking about Ian McKellen’s special gifts and charisma as a performer in theatre and film. They both spoke in detail about the enormous differences between the mediums of stage and film.

The audience was enthralled as Sir Ian gave them invaluable advice on how to make it and the endurance required for a career as a professional actor. He likened any production and theatre or film company to a family, with love, devotion and dependency—plus some squabbles—at its centre. On preparing for the beginning of their future careers, he urged the audience to be themselves at all costs: “If you’re gay, or if you’re different, express your difference and be yourself, because without it you’re not going to enjoy your life.”

Talking about the importance of Equity (the UK trade union for professional performers and creative practitioners) he said: “We have to stick together in this business, and one way of doing that is through a union of people who know what working conditions should be and how to make them better. And Equity have improved them over the years.”

BA (Hons) Acting student Alice Goble said after the event:   “As an actor in training, it is so important to hear from successful actors and directors who believe in the arts, believe in the people it's effecting, and believe in the next generation of actors that will go into the industry. We need to be inspired and supported by respected people in the industry–it was incredible to hear Sir Ian speak so highly of training actors and our purpose within theatre, film and TV.”

Audio File