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a life in architecture

In an age when actors tend to concentrate on a career in movies, Ian McKellen seems somewhat old-fashioned. For, despite his recent Oscar- nominated performance in the film Gods and Monsters, the Lancashire-born actor-knight is very much a man of the theatre. Not surprisingly, he cites theatres as among the key buildings in his life; in particular, those designed by Frank Matcham, whose buildings include London's Coliseum and Palladium, as well as a host of theatres and opera houses in the provinces.

'Matcham's the man who designed the great late nineteenth-century theatres, like the Royal in Newcastle, Her Majesty's in Edinburgh, and the Grand in Leeds [pictured],' says McKellen. 'They were all roughly of the same proportions and design - heavily decorated auditoria, with a certain opulence and dignity, acoustics were invariably good. I've acted in all of them.

'When you get a full house in one of those theatres, large as they are - 1200, 1300 people - there's something about the proportions and the relationship of the stage to the auditorium which is all-inclusive and which turns this large building into, well, a house. It's a lovely word for a theatre isn't it, a house? The whole building concentrates itself down to one figure on the stage, one voice.'

Demetrios Matheou

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