They say you should never meet your heroes but for Coventry’s Terry Little, shaking hands with Sir Ian McKellen was a highlight of his life.
Terry’s big moment came last year during Sir Ian’s 80th anniversary tour of the country.
The great thesp took his one-man show to a string of provincial theatres that he had had a personal connection with.
So there were two dates in Coventry, where he began his career, shows at the RSC in Stratford, and among the other venues was Derngate in Northampton - which is where Terry, of West Avenue, Stoke Park, and his wife Sarah, travelled to see the much-praised show.
“I’d been a huge fan of his for years,” said Terry, “We’ve seen him a number of times – his Lear at Stratford was just outstanding.
“But we were away on holiday when the tour was announced and by the time we tried to get tickets, the Belgrade and Stratford were sold out. We managed to get two of the last few tickets at Derngate as a treat for my birthday.”
Sadly though, the evening was a disappointment. The seats were in the very back row of the upper circle, as far from the stage as it’s possible to be.
“I found the sound was appalling up there,” said Terry. “I heard very few of the great man’s words. But presumably everyone else did, they were all laughing.”
Nevertheless, after the show he and Sarah queued to shake their hero’s hand. Terry was happy to do just that. Sarah, however, never one to hold back, was not: “My husband didn’t hear a word of that”, she fired at Sir Ian, letting him know exactly how disappointed poor Terry was, especially having come all the way from Coventry, it being his birthday, and all.
“He looked completely mortified,” said Terry. “He said: ‘I’m so, so sorry. Do let me try to make amends.’ And turning to an assistant he said: ‘Please make sure that these people get two tickets for the Belgrade, as my guests’.”
And it was done.
Two tickets for front stall seats were waiting for Terry and Sarah at the Belgrade. It was a brilliant show and they heard every delicious word.
They even thought for a moment that Sir Ian recognised them from the stage and flashed them a special smile, but perhaps they imagined that.
“It was wonderful,” said Terry. “And what a great guy he is – one of the outstanding British actors of his or any generation, and a thoroughly nice chap to boot.”
Pictured: Sir Ian in his one-man show and Terry and Sarah Little at home