Sir Ian McKellen withdraws from Player Kings tour ‘on medical advice’ after fall from stage

Sir Ian McKellen attends the “Bent” 25th anniversary screening and Q&A at the BFI Southbank on 27 September, 2022 in London, England. (Getty Images)
Sir Ian McKellen attends the “Bent” 25th anniversary screening and Q&A at the BFI Southbank on 27 September, 2022 in London, England. (Getty Images)

Sir Ian McKellen has withdrawn completely from his role in London’s Player Kings after suffering a dramatic fall mid-performance that brought the play to a halt.

The veteran actor, 85, will miss the remainder of the play’s run and be replaced by understudy David Semark in the role of John Falstaff.

Player Kings will appear at the Bristol Hippodrome on 3 to 6 July, Birmingham Alexandra on 10 to 13 July, Norwich Theatre Royal from the 17 to 20 July and Newcastle Theatre Royal from 24 to 27 July.

The actor was hospitalised for three nights after the fall and apologised to fans for the decision he made with “the greatest reluctance” to aid his recovery.

News of the cancellation was revealed on Twitter (X) by the play’s production company alongside the message from the actor.

McKellen added: “I had been so looking forward to bringing Player Kings to theatre-goers in Bristol, Birmingham, Norwich and Newcastle.

“But I can assure them that, with David Semark, now playing Falstaff, Robert Icke’s production and his acting company remain as dazzling as ever. Go see for yourself!”

The actor’s fall two weeks ago took place during a fight scene in the adaption of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Player Kings at London’s Noël Coward Theatre.

McKellen landed on a 30-year-old audience member, who was also hospitalised.

Johanna from Leatherhead, Surrey, who asked for her surname to remain private, subsequently hit out at staff at the theatre for failing to provide adequate care.

“I felt a bit like I wasn’t really being checked on,” she said, revealing that a doctor in the audience helped her.

“Getting crushed by Gandalf the Grey, that’s something you don’t expect,” she told the BBC, revealing that McKellen had fallen after slipping on a prop.

Johanna, who was in hospital for one night, said that the actor screamed in pain during the incident, leaving her “in shock”.

A spokesperson for the theatre has since apologised for the incident and said it offered Johanna “support and assistance from the moment it happened and will continue to do so.”

Ian McKellen in ‘Player Kings' (Manuel Harlan)
Ian McKellen in ‘Player Kings' (Manuel Harlan)

After being released from hospital, McKellen thanked the NHS for their care.

“My injuries have been diagnosed and treated by a series of experts, specialists and nurses working for the National Health Service,” he wrote in a statement on Twitter (X).

“To them, of course, I am hugely indebted.

“They have assured me that my recovery will be complete and speedy and I am looking forward to returning to work.”

A spokesperson for Ian McKellen reiterated the statement posted by Player Kings on social media to The Independent.