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Ian McKellen on stage during the Player Kings© Dave Benett

Exclusive: Ian McKellen, 85, 'shouted out in agony' says audience member after falling off stage

The Lord of the Rings actor was rushed to hospital

June 18, 2024
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Audience members were left shocked and worried on Monday night after Sir Ian McKellen, 85, took a fall during a production of Player Kings at the Noel Coward Theatre in London's West End.

The Lord of the Rings actor, who plays the bubbly and permanently intoxicated John Falstaff in the Henry IV adaptation, was rushed to hospital after he appeared to "slip on the edge of the stage".

Audience member, Sally Hope, who was at the show with her mum,  told HELLO! about the "horrible" ordeal. "It was such a sad night," she explained. "It was near the end of the first act, just before the interval - a good one hour 45 minutes into the show. It was in a scene where Ian McKellen's character, John Falstaff was in a battle.

Ian McKellen onn stage during the Player Kings© Dave Benett
The incident happend during a fight scene on Monday evening

"In the scene, he came to the edge of the stage - where I think he was meant to be - and egged on the prince and then just out of nowhere, I just see Ian go, and he'd fallen off of the stage. 

"I had that moment where I thought: 'Is this part of the play?' because his character, Falstaff is brilliant, funny and supposed to be drunk. So it was, it sort of was in keeping with the character, but the moment didn't make any sense, because they're in war. It's not the right moment. 

"So your brain goes for all these things, and it all happened so quickly. As soon as he fell, there was a moment of: 'Oh, my God, what's happened?' everyone had seen it and started murmuring in the audience."

A photo of Ian McKellen at the after parry for the Player Kings© Dave Benett
Ian was rushed to hospital shortly after the fall

She added: "Then within about five seconds, we just heard this horrible sound of him, shouting out in what was clearly agony, he was obviously in pain. It was horrible.

"He was near the edge, which I think is where he was meant to be, so I think he slipped, that's what it looked like from where I was sitting."

"Within what felt like a second, there was a member of stage management on stage. People in the front row where he'd fallen and were quite close to him looked as if they tried to protect him.  

Ian McKellen at the after party of the Player Kings© Dave Benett
The 85-year-old is reported to be in "good spirits" following the incident

"I don't know if people had got up to see if he was all right, or if everybody was just in shock, but all I could see was the people there were starting to move, and the stage management were telling people to move. Then the lights went up, and we were all told to leave within about probably a minute of it happening. It felt a lot longer in the moment."

Sally and the rest of the audience were quickly escorted out of the theatre where they were met with staff who revealed an ambulance was on its way. 

"Everybody in the crowd just wanted to know if he was all right. They told us that an ambulance was on its way and that they were he was going to be taken away, and that's all we were told - I think that's all that they knew."

"I have so much respect for the staff there because you could see how upset and shaken they all were, but they handled it very well," she added.

In the show, Ian's character wears a bodysuit which Sally said may have helped cushion his fall. "He's 85, you know, I've had grandparents that have fallen at that age. One thing I did think was at least he was in a body suit. That very much might have helped his fall."

Thankfully, it was reported by the BBC that Ian is "in good spirits" following his dash to hospital and that he is expected to return to the stage on Wednesday for his matinee performance. 

As for whether the audience members of last night's show will get a chance to see the production again, Sally explained: "They handed out little slips for everybody regarding the cancellation, and it said on the slip that will be contacted within 72 hours regarding refunds or rearrangements. 

"This was the show's last week in London, and then it's supposed to be travelling around different theatres in the country, Bristol, Norwich."

"I cannot express how brilliant everyone at the theatre was at handling the situation. They were so quick, they were so efficient and I am just so pleased Ian is ok."

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