On a Friday in September, UCAN members gathered at the School of Optometry for what appeared to be a normal UCAN session. We were all very much mistaken. Jane Latham, UCAN’s founder, had brought us all together to tell us some news.
Sir Ian McKellen, a.k.a Gandalf, would be donating the proceeds of his West End one man show to UCAN and nine other performance based organisations. After receiving the news we were completely speechless. The surprise had this enchanting ability to silence everyone in the room. As a group we were (and still are) completely gobsmacked but incredibly grateful. We believed that the good news has stopped there, well, we were very much mistaken. Not only would UCAN be benefiting from the proceeds, but we had also been invited to the press night for his one-man show.
A few very seemingly short weeks later a small group of the UCAN core members travelled to London to see his show. We dressed for the occasion and made our way to the theatre. One of the other UCAN members, Jake, and I briefly spoke in an interview with one of the theatre staff about UCAN and what the money would mean, then joined the other invited organisations and had a few celebratory drinks and nibbles before the show.
When walking the short distance from the bar to the theatre, we were greeted with a wall of beautiful noise from the street band. This truly was a wonderful to the theatre experience we were all about to be a part of.
All of my expectations were utterly blown out of the water. His performance was sensational and breathtaking. From starting with a reading from The Lord of the Rings, to his favourite poems and life anecdotes in between in the first act he showcased the man behind the magnificence. And that was only the first act. The second was unsurprisingly focused on McKellen’s love and career surrounding Shakespeare. Entwining stories from his own performance experiences with that of Shakespeare’s plays. It was a performance we are likely to never forget.
Not only were we astounded by his performance, but after the performance Sir Ian, with a yellow bucket, could be found collecting money for the organisations for whom he is raising funds. Not only we were able to see him even closer up, we met him! Each of us shook his hand, said a hello and a thank you.
By his time we were exhausted but elated. We retired to our respective hotels to reflect on the wonderful day and the marvellous opportunity we had been afforded by Sir Ian. It will stay in our memories forever, alongside our gratitude.