Sir Ian McKellen, award-winning actor in British theatre and film, whose most notable roles include Gandalf in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and Magneto in X-Men, surprised Winchester’s Chesil Theatre members and a packed auditorium when he attended the biennial 10×10 Festival of New Writing, which took place over the weekend of 18th/19th October 2014. The Festival, a showcase of ten short scripts, was the culmination of the 10×10 national playwriting competition, which originaly started in a small way eight years ago, but has grown in popularity; this year attracting over 120 entries from across the UK.
The ten winning plays ranged from the hilarious comedy Good Luck, Commander Mulberry, in which three astronauts find themselves cast adrift in space halfway through a 300 day mission to One Hundred and Fifty Questions, highlighting the cultural bias of questions when interviewing lesbian asylum seekers and All or Nothing tackling the subject of child abuse. More Drama Offstage Than On ventured into the all too recognisable world of amateur dramatics, whilst Burger Boy found two unlikely teenage friends facing a moral dilemma with an unexpected ending.
Sir Ian commented that he was keen to see this production as the format of ten completely different but entirely new works performed in one evening was rare. He said: “At the end of each play, I thought the next one might be a dud, but none of them was. It’s a pity there are only three performances. 10×10 merits a longer run and the whole set could easily form a touring production.”
Sir Ian made his visit as Patron of the Little Theatre Guild. Tom Williams, President of Chesil Theatre, presented him with a copy of the recently published History of the Winchester Dramatic Society and said “Sir Ian is a dedicated Patron of the LTG. It was a great privilege to welcome him to our intimate venue and benefit from his enthusiasm. It was the perfect way to round off the celebrations for our 150th anniversary of presenting live theatre in Winchester.”
Chesil Theatre member Deborah Edgington, producer of 10×10 said: “This has been a big project for us – 10 writers, 10 directors, a cast of over 30 plus our valiant technical and backstage team who set it all up in under a week. A great team effort with a wonderful result!”