Sir Ian McKellen, one of the most celebrated actors of our time, will take on the role of Falstaff in a new production of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part One and Part Two, titled Player Kings. The play, directed by Jonathan Munby, will premiere at the Theatre Royal Windsor in April 2023, before transferring to the West End and Broadway.

Player Kings is a reimagining of Shakespeare’s historical dramas, focusing on the relationship between the aging King Henry IV (played by McKellen) and his rebellious son, Prince Hal (played by Tom Glynn-Carney). The play also features the comic exploits of Falstaff, a fat and cowardly knight who is Hal’s mentor and friend. Falstaff is one of Shakespeare’s most memorable and complex characters, who has been portrayed by many actors over the years, including Orson Welles, Anthony Quayle, and Robert Stephens.

McKellen, who is 84 years old, said he was thrilled to play Falstaff, a role he has never attempted before. “Falstaff is a part I have longed to play, but never dared to, until now,” he said in a statement. “He is a challenge for any actor, but I am drawn to his wit, his mischief, his appetite for life and his loyalty to his friends. I am also excited to work with Jonathan Munby again, who directed me as King Lear in 2018. He has a fresh and bold vision for these plays, which will bring out their relevance and humor for modern audiences.”

Munby, who has previously directed McKellen in King Lear and No Man’s Land, said he was honored to collaborate with the legendary actor once more. “Ian is a force of nature, a consummate artist and a generous collaborator,” he said. “He has an extraordinary affinity with Shakespeare, and I can’t think of anyone better suited to play Falstaff, one of the Bard’s most fascinating and enduring creations. Player Kings will be a celebration of Shakespeare’s genius, Ian’s remarkable career, and the enduring power of theatre to inspire and delight us all.”

Player Kings will run at the Theatre Royal Windsor from April 4 to May 27, 2023, before transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London from June 6 to September 2, 2023, and then to the Belasco Theatre in New York from October 5 to December 17, 2023. Tickets will go on sale on November 20, 2023, and can be booked online or by phone. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see one of the greatest actors of our generation in one of the greatest roles ever written.

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