A THEATRE legend is heading to Colchester as part of a special tour to mark his 80th birthday.

Iconic stage figure Sir Ian McKellen will be at the Mercury Theatre in April as part of an 80-date tour of the UK which coincides with his 80th birthday.

Profits and his wage from each of the shows from Ian McKellen On Stage will go to the theatre with each venue being able to spend the money on whatever it thinks is right.

Sir Ian has links to Colchester after David Forder - the founder of the Mercury Theatre - handed him his professional debut on the boards.

Cash from the show will go to Colchester's Headgate Theatre, where his sister Jean used to perform, and the Mercury Rising project which aims to raise £1.9million to allow for works on the building to be completed.

Sir Ian said: “The director of my professional debut in 1961 was the young David Forder before he arrived to establish The Mercury ten years later.

“My late sister Jean lived in Colchester, where she was a regular at the Mercury.

"She was locally an enthusiastic amateur actor, director, producer and fundraiser.

"She was a trustee of Headgate Theatre, one beneficiary of Ian McKellen On Stage.

“The other is Mercury Rising to secure the Mercury Theatre building for the future.

"I’m looking forward to making my Colchester debut.”

His act will encompass his wide-ranging career and include anecdotes, acting and audience participation.

He said: “They will expect to see Gandalf, they will. They probably will expect Shakespeare, and there will be a lot of that. There will be other stuff which will perhaps be more surprising.

“There will be a chance for me to tell a story or two and it will be different perhaps in each place I go to."

Cheap tickets will be available at each show and Sir Ian said he hoped young people would be in the audience at every stop.

Asked what advice he would give to those young actors, he replied: “I advise them to do what I do and go watch other people acting, whether it is stage or on telly or on film, or even on the Tube, or walking down the street.

“Everyone is always acting. All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.

“You can learn an awful lot by observing and trying to work out why someone is good on stage and why someone else is not. You can do it for free.”

Ian McKellen On Stage will be in Colchester on April 17 and 18 next year.