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Last Updated: Friday, 19 November, 2004, 15:59 GMT
Actor Sir Ian becomes panto Dame
Sir Ian McKellen (centre) with (clockwise left-right) Sam Kelly, Joe McFadden, Cat Simmons and Maureen Lipman
Sir Ian is in rehearsals with the rest of the Aladdin cast
Lord of the Rings star Sir Ian McKellen is preparing for his latest role - as a pantomime dame.

The 65-year-old actor will play Widow Twankey in a production of Aladdin at Kevin Spacey's Old Vic theatre, in London, next month.

The classical actor described his new role as "a bit of an adventure".

More than 1m worth of advance tickets have already been snapped up for the pantomime, which also stars actress Maureen Lipman.

I believe there's more pure theatre in a pantomime than you get in Shakespeare
Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian said: "Pantomime has everything theatrical - song, dance, verse, slapstick, soliloquy, audience participation, spectacle, cross-dressing and a good plot, strong on morality and romance.

"What more could you want for a family outing?"

He added: "It's all a bit of an adventure for me, but I believe there's more pure theatre in a pantomime than you get in Shakespeare, and if it works, it's unforgettable."

Lipman, who plays Dim Sum, has had previous pantomime experience. In 1969 she played the Genie of the Ring at the Watford Palace.

She said: "I had a blue frizzy wig, John Lennon glasses, lots of beads and bangles, and I entered on a pogo-stick.

"It was great fun and absolutely exhausting."

Aladdin is played by Joe McFadden and the Princess by Cat Simmons.

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