Sir Ian McKellen’s long-anticipated return to the role of Hamlet has been set for June.
The theatre veteran, 81, first played the Prince of Denmark in the Shakespeare tragedy 50 years ago.
It was first announced he would return to the role in an “age-blind interpretation” last year and it has now been confirmed the show will open at the Theatre Royal Windsor this summer, as one of the first major new productions to be staged following lockdown.
It is thought Hamlet was meant to be around 30.
Directed by Sean Mathias, the show will also star Ben Allen, Francesca Annis, and Steven Berkoff.
It will be followed at the theatre by Martin Sherman’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, with Sir Ian as Firs the elderly manservant.
He said: “I’ve acted in both these masterpieces before – and seen them scores of times.
“They are in that select group of classic plays which bear, even demand, a regular look, even reappraisal, by actors, directors, producers – and audiences.
“How can Hamlet be played by an 80-year-old? I hope theatre-starved audiences will want to find out!!”
The production first went into rehearsal eight months ago but could not proceed when new restrictions were put in place due to the UK’s second wave of coronavirus.
Rehearsals will start again next week, with strict Covid measures in place.
Producer Bill Kenwright said: “Sean, Ian and I started this journey during the first lockdown last summer.
“At that time it was not to be, but while we will continue to work in steadfast accordance with Government and scientific guidelines, and the safety of all our priority, we are hugely optimistic that our rehearsals will lead us to a pretty historic opening on June 21 at 7.30pm.”
Hamlet will run until September 4, with The Cherry Orchard opening on September 10 and running until October 23.
It has also been announced that hit musical Jersey Boys will return to the West End, opening at the newly renovated Trafalgar Theatre, with performances from July 28 and an opening night of August 10.
The show about the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons includes hits such as Beggin’, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, December, 1963 (Oh What A Night) and Big Girls Don’t Cry.
It previously ran in the West End from 2008 to 2017.