It’ll be a Night to remember ...

Sir Ian McKellen with the junior section of the Westovian Theatre Society.

Sir Ian McKellen with the junior section of the Westovian Theatre Society.

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A SOUTH Tyneside drama group is taking on a Shakespearean classic – after receiving some wise words from an acting legend.

The junior section of the Westovian Theatre Society, in South Shields, were inspired to perform Twelfth Night after taking part in a workshop led by Sir Ian McKellen.

The young actors were visited by the acting legend – best known recently for playing the wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings films – in December.

Sir Ian is president of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain and called in at the South Tyneside theatre to share his experience.

And this week, they’ll put his advice into action by staging Twelfth Night at the Westovian Theatre in Pier Parade, South Shields.

Sir Ian has graced the stage in a number of William Shakespeare’s plays, such as Henry IV, Cymbeline, Macbeth, Othello and King Lear.

The show’s director, Rachael Walsh, from South Shields, said: “He came to visit the theatre and the juniors were really set on doing a Shakespeare-based workshop with him.

“He gave them lots of amazing advice about the characters and the stories, and told them stories about when he’d been in Shakespeare plays.

“As soon as he’d left, they all just had their hearts set on doing Twelfth Night.

“Rehearsals have been going so well and the show is just hilarious.

“They’ve done amazingly well. I said to them right from the start that it would be difficult but they’ve just put so much work in to it.

“It’s traditional language but we’ve modernised it a bit to make it more accessible to them and the people who are going to be coming to see it.”

Rachael added: “It’s definitely not just for Shakespeare fans – everyone can enjoy it.

“We really wanted to make the show appeal to people who might not have gone to see Shakespeare otherwise.

“The juniors’ friends and parents will be coming along to see it, and we want them to leave thinking that they’d love to see Shakespeare again.”

Twelfth Night is one of The Bard’s best-loved comedies.

It follows twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated when they are shipwrecked.

Viola disguises herself as a man, named Cesario, in order to enter into the service of Duke Orsino, with whom she falls madly in love.

But Orsino is in love with Olivia, and Olivia falls in love with Cesario, not realising he is really Viola.

Producer Amy Harris said: “Twelfth Night will be my last production with the Junior Westovians.

“It has been an absolute pleasure working with the Juniors for over five years, and I have been extremely fortunate to be able to work with such a lovely group of talented young people.

“The commitment and willingness that all of the young people show to learn new skills and expand their knowledge never fails to amaze me.

“They have worked extremely hard over almost four months to bring to the stage a very demanding piece of theatre and rehearsals are reflecting this.

“Get ready for a performance of comedy, confusion and clever acting, and support this fantastic group of young people.”

Twelfth Night runs at the Westovian Theatre from Wednesday, to Saturday, at 7.30pm each night.

Tickets cost from £3.50.

To book before tomorrow, call the tourist information centre on 454 6612, and on show nights, call the box office on 456 0980.

Twitter: @shieldsgazvicki

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