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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 10:05 GMT
McKellen back on London stage
Frances de la Tour and Ian McKellen
The rapport between de la Tour and McKellen was praised
Sir Ian McKellen, one of Britain's finest stage actors, has made a triumphant return to London's West End.

The actor, who is also famed for his role as wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings films, starred in Dance of Death by August Strindberg at the Lyric Theatre.

Strindberg's dark and poignant comedy about a spiteful and bitter married couple had already won rave reviews in New York.

It opened on Broadway just a week after the 11 September attacks.

'Breathtaking performances'

It is the sort of production you would expect to find at the National, and I mean that as a compliment
Mark Shenton

Both Sir Ian, as the sadistic military captain Edgar, and Frances de la Tour as his wife were described by Paul Taylor in The Independent as "unbelievable" and "breathtaking".

Their performance also prompted cheers from the audience.

The 63-year-old actor with a huge Shakespearian pedigree said he now feels as much at ease with cinema acting and Hollywood.

"I think now that the camera is a very small theatre with the audience very, very close and very friendly too," he said.

Two Oscar nominations are proof of his success on the big screen, where he has also won fans playing the villainous Magneto in the cult comic book X-Men saga.

His popularity in the UK was sealed with a knighthood in 1991.

He famously "outed" himself live on radio in 1988 and now campaigns for gay rights.

'Born again'

Frances de la Tour and Ian McKellen
The couple's relationship is full of recriminations
But he feels his career has benefited as a result of being open about his sexuality.

"When people like teachers and politicians come out, their prospects will suffer," he said.

"What has happened to me, certainly in films, is that my career has taken off.

"It has such a wonderfully explosive effect on your personality and feelings and self-confidence.

"It is like being born again. You become your own person for the first time."

Radio 4's Front Row
Matt Wolf compares Broadway and West End versions

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