Page last updated at 10:08 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 11:08 UK

Sir Ian call for more women roles

Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ian said audiences are interested in older characters

Actor Sir Ian McKellen has made a plea for fresh stage roles to be created for older actresses.

The 70-year-old told The Stage that "everybody wants to see actresses like Judi Dench, it's just up to people to provide the material".

He added that Dame Judi had effectively run out of Shakespearian parts.

The actor cited West End productions of Calendar Girls and Madame de Sade, where there is "not a man in sight" as evidence of audiences' interest.

'Cliched'

"People might have thought, who wants to see plays about elder women? Well, the general public do," said Sir Ian.

"Plays about old age are perhaps going to be more popular than they used to be and that should help playwrights think, well, we can find some fabulous parts for the fabulous actresses there are around," he added.

"If [playwrights] are just titillated by the stories young people have, they are missing out.

Dame Judi Dench in Madame de Sade (photo by Johan Persson)
Dame Judi Dench currently stars in Madame de Sade

"If Shakespeare hadn't been interested in older people and people in their prime, we would not have had Antony and Cleopatra, and many other characters."

Stage actress Margaret Tyzack, 77, who won the Oliver Award for best actress in March, said earlier this year that the roles offered to older women were "cliched".

Actors' union Equity also made a call for older female performers to be treated more fairly, launching an online petition in March.

It said there was a lack of roles particularly on the small screen, and asked major broadcasters to address the issue.

A number of actors put their names to the petition, including Simon Callow, Julie Walters and Imelda Staunton.



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