Sir Ian McKellen Exclusive Interview

Ian McKellen launches app to make Shakespeare easier to understand.

A new iPad application connecting with all ages. The App’s purpose is “Shakespeare wrote his plays to be heard and seen, not read”. Read further to discover a new path to Shakespeare…

Sir Ian McKellen

Today has been one of the highlights within my life and career, interviewing Sir Ian McKellen. We discussed his new venture named “Heuristic Shakespeare: The Tempest”.

A new iPad application connecting with all ages. The App’s purpose is “Shakespeare wrote his plays to be heard and seen, not read”. Read further to discover a new path to Shakespeare…

Sir Ian McKellen is at the British Film Institute to celebrate William Shakespeare’s 400 year Anniversary by promoting a new iPad application named “Heuristic Shakespeare” beginning with one of many Shakespearan greats “The Tempest”.

Heuristic Media, are the company behind the Application. Formed in 2010, the team includes: Richard Loncraine, Patrick Uden, Toby Evetts and Simon Reeves. After 23 years since last working with Sir McKellen on the film “Richard lll”, film director Richard Loncraine had the honour when his dear friend, Sir Ian McKellen, agreed to collaborate with him once again on this exciting new adventure. Joining the team was Professor Sir Jonathan Bates of Oxford Universityl, who has helped with providing guidance around William Shakespeare.

At the British Film Institute, we see reunited again Richard Loncraine, Patrick Uden, Sir Jonathhan Bates and Sir Ian McKellen.

Richard Loncraine, worked with Patrick Uden on ‘Tomorrow Land’. Loncraine says they both have a ‘love of technology’ which has been the contributing factor that stimulated the idea of creating the App in the first place.

Loncraine added regarding the App: ‘The actors don’t walk off stage or look at each other. The actors simply look at you. That one to one relationship is very dominant’.

Uden followed by saying: ‘One of two things. Firstly. It’s a very familiar form these days because that’s how video, thats how they consume their video blogs. This is the way they are used to being spoken to by everybody, straight to thm as an indivudal. It works for the youngsters we discovered. Taking it to school’.

‘Secondly, Richard and I work in television, we worked in tomorrows world. We had to break down complicatd science subjects for popular consumption. I think it’s this that attracted us to the idea of the ipad. It was this opportunity to use this device to deconstruct things, to consume, to be able to understand things. You have control over this play at all times. That’s a reassuring position for some one when you have something complicated as Shakespeare’.

Sir Jonathan Bate discusses being introduced to the project and how he feels Shakespeare can help the 21 ‘Well, Richard Loncraine and Patrick Uden, from Heuristic, got in touch with me and said: ‘We want to do an iPad App for Shakespeare. What’s out there? What st Century. He had this to say: should we do?’ So, I was involved since the outsert’.

‘It’s always seemed to me the thing that’s keep Shakespeare alive, ‘the reason’ were we are remembering the 400 stay alive by evolving into new media.

‘In the 21 managed to do something new and true to Shakespeare. With this format for the iPad, with the team at Heuristic, we brainstormed what students would benefit from. The great thing about an App is that it has a huge amount of material, but you don’t have to see it all at once’.

‘Sometimes you can be overwhelmed with to much information. But here you have the actor speaking to you and you can follow the text. If you come across something which you don’t understand, you can tilt the iPad and read the notes on the side, which gives you a breakdown of history and so forth’.

Sir McKellen concluded by stating: ‘The person we are relating to, is you. The person who is on the other end of the app. This is not a production. You are getting a collective knowledge, but you are not getting anything that tries to be definitive. We don’t want to spoil it for when you go see the play in the theatre. We want you to get into the theatre and see the live actors and get the real Shakespeare spirit’.

After the conference and a small interval. I had the privilege of having one to one time with Sir Ian McKellen. We discussed his appreciation of William Shakespeare, Where he likes to see the future with this Application and What he’d like to say to William Shakespeare if he where among us within the 21 Sir McKellen: ‘Shakespeare and I’ — ‘Someone asked ‘What’s relevant about Shakespeare? I said well because there’s a quote for all occassions – ‘Goodnight Sweet Prince. I was very lucky to discover Shakespeare about the time I discovered Theatre which is my lifes passion’.

‘When I was eight or nine years old when I was in the North of England, where I was born, my sister deeply mad about Theatre took me to see Twelfth Night. I was like don’t tell me the plot, what’s the point of seeing the play if I know what’s going to happen; and I still think that. Throw spectators at the deep end and sit them in front of some good actors and if it’s Shakespeare, then it’ll change their lifes.

Changed my life! When I saw Macbeth, it scared me out of my wits’. ‘When we came to study Shakespeare in school, it didn’t seem to me like an academic subject. But, I could see the other lads arriving bored to tears as we went around reading a speech at a time. It’s not easy to understand Shakespeare. A point I never tire of making is – don’t punish yourself if you find it difficult. Give me a Mozart score, it doesn’t mean anything to me! I don’t understand the language, I don’t know how it works. I can’t read it, hear it’.

‘It’s a bit like that with Shakespeare. He didn’t mean for you to read it, he meant for the actors to read it, learn it, put it a side and speak it! For the audence – audio [tugs on ear]. Spectators for you to listen’.

Sir McKellen: Shakespeare & Acting — ‘I love that Shakespeare was an actor first. There’s that idea all the world’s a stage. It is actually at the heart of what Shakespeare taught the world. Which is that, we are actors and then you decided what costume you wear to suit the occassions.

You then have other costumes that were quite different. I had a different accent at school and a different one at home’.

‘We disguise ourselves. We change like that. Animals don’t do that. Animals are just honest. A dog is always a dog. The situation is always the same. But, Human beings we disguise ourselves’.

‘There’s this man [Shakespeare] who seems to understand everybody as if he invented them. We’re very lucky to speak his language’.

‘I’m fond of Shakespeare because it’s difficult. To play the part you have to understand it. You are required to have experiences, to imagine experiences that you’ve never met. How did they get to be like the way they were. It’s facsinating isn’t it. Why do people behave like they do. In doing that, you discover you can imagine what’s like to be that character. The real lesson and the worrying thing is to discover you could do anything’.

Sir McKellen: Heuristic Shakespeare App — ‘We began developing the Application about six months ago. Initially we thought about bringing out four or five. Once we started building them, we then ran out of money. So I pointed out that it’s Shakespeares Anniversary. Why don’t we promote the first play then’.

‘I just want it to be a way of introducing people to Shakespeare and encouraging people to know about Shakespeare and those who very well know of Shakespeare indeed’.

Message to Shakespeare.

‘Thank you very, very much, indeed! That’s what I’ll like to tell him, if he where here today’ [Smiles].

To finally summerise my day with Sir McKellen. It’s educational and rewarding sitting opposite a man who admires Shakespeare the way he does. Listening to what Sir McKellen had to say opens your mind to reading and understanding beneath the text, and there is much more to Shakespeare than a notable writer. I would say that if you are influenced the same way I was listening to Sir McKellen talking about Shakespeare, you’ll be influenced when downloading this Application.

The Application is there for you to enjoy Shakespeare and not be pressured by it. Try understanding beneath the text and broaden your horizon’s. If you ever get stuck the application can help you with notes, history and so forth.

You can download the iPad Application via the Apple App Store now. I advise you buy it and don’t let all those years of understanding Shakespeares plays and literature burden you. Mobile integration is being developed to so please an eye out for that. More plays are being available later this year. Heurisitc Shakespeare is an amazing modernised application for the right generation. Have a go! — Tell us what you think at @MarkMeets.

Article by: Ali Armian.

Interviewed by: Ali Armian.

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