Well, I was intending this week's post to either be about the NatCon of the beginning of the month, or Matariki, the Maori New Year, which has just happened.
However, last night, we went to see Sir Ian McKellan doing a one man show. He is doing a whole series of them around New Zealand to raise money for the Isaac Royal Theatre in Christchurch, which was badly damaged in the earthquakes and aftershocks, and needs a lot of restoration to return it to its former glory. Whilst the vital repairs are covered by the theatre's insurance, they are reliant on fundraising for the remainder. So, when we heard that Sir I. was doing a one man show in Wellington, and particularly for such a good cause, I didn't even have to stop to think before buying the tickets.
So, we rocked up to the Opera House on a very blustery night (the car door was whipped out of my hand when I got out - fortunately, there were no traffic for it to hit!), and took our seats about 20 minutes early. As the auditorium started to fill up, we were looking round for friends that we knew were going to be there, and I was keeping an eye out for anyone else I know - the joy of being so socially and work-active in Wellington means that I do have a tendency to bump into friend or colleagues in the most unlikely of places. A couple of gentlemen a few seats in front of us caught my eye - I was fairly certain that I knew them, but just couldn't put my finger on it. Until Martin Freeman walked up in a long brown coat and flat cap and greeted them. Then I realised that they were two other members of the Hobbit cast. The geek inside of me started to bounce a little bit - I'm not in Wellington enough to have been able to do much cast-spotting, so was a little excited that a few of them had decided to come and support their colleague in his show.
Then Sir Peter Jackson took his seat. And Billy Connolly. And James Nesbit. And Aiden Turner (who sat two rows in front of us). By this point, we realised that most of the Hobbit cast still remaining in Wellington were sitting only a few rows away, and my inner geek was trying very hard not to start going "squee" out loud!
The show started with Sir I. doing a (from memory) reading of the Balrog scene from Lord of the Rings, complete with Glamdring (Gandalf's sword). It was a fantastic opening, and the evening just got better. He invited questions from the audience, leading to reminiscences which ranged from how he felt about someone else playing Magneto, to appearing on Ricky Gervais' "Extras", taking in how and why he came out as being gay at the age of 49, and what happened when he went to Buckingham Palace for his knightood. The first half ended with him performing a pair of Gerard Manley Hopkins poems, The Leaden Echo and The Golden Echo.
GMH is a poet that I had to study at school, and absolutely hated him when I had to read his work, but have grown to admire more now that exam results do not depend upon me being able to rip the words apart! Sir I. was able to show the richness of the work with the multiple layers of meaning and the musicality of the rhythm and repeating words far better than I was ever able to appreciate at school.
The second half of the show was all about Shakespeare. Between the audience, we were able to name all of Shakespeare's plays, and Sir I. spoke on about half of them, including reminiscences of when he was in them, and also performing roles for us, including both Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, Hamlet and Sir Thomas More (not one of Shakespeare's official plays, but one which Shakespeare helped to write).
Finally, he invited the members of the Hobbit cast who were in the audience to come up on stage and collect buckets for more Theatre donations, and audience members to come up and join them all for a bit of staging of live Shakespeare (the "Dead French Soldiers" bit from Henry V)
We ended up the evening joining the queue/crowd to get Sir I's. autograph and a photo taken with him (for an additional donation, of course) - we didn't stay around to meet the Hobbit cast as a number of other friends who were in the audience did, as it was already late, and the crowd was getting a bit much for me. But most definitely a poingtastic evening - I love living in Wellington!