Rediscover the West End on a GPS-guided audio walk with Sir Ian McKellen
Audio tour app VoiceMap has today launched an audio tour through the heart of London’s Theatreland, guided by legendary actor Sir Ian McKellen. The tour gives both Londoners and visitors the unique opportunity to see the West End through McKellen’s eyes, and includes stories of his 52-year-long career on the stage.
Theatreland Tour with Ian McKellen was produced by Official London Theatre – a brand under the not-for-profit Society of London Theatre – and is part of the organisation’s efforts to promote theatregoing. The audio walk can be downloaded free of charge using the VoiceMap apps for iOS and Android devices. These use GPS to play audio automatically, with McKellen directing you through your earphones along the way.
McKellen invites listeners to play the lead role in a one-of-a-kind “performance”, with him as director. The streets of London’s theatre district are the stage, he says, and occasionally McKellen cracks a joke about the listener’s brilliant stage presence, or assigns them an acting test. The tour weaves together tales of theatre’s rich history with McKellen’s own memories, from his West End debut in 1964 at the Duke of York Theatre, to flirting from the art deco windows of the Fortune Theatre in the 1970s, and battling a child while playing Captain Hook – in high heels – in the 1990s.
Starting and ending at the TKTS ticket booth on Leicester Square, the hour long circular walk passes several significant landmarks. Listeners experience Theatreland as it was for actors and audiences 300 years ago, before electric lights and moving sets, when audiences showed their disapproval by throwing fruit at the stage. The walk takes in Bow Street Magistrates Court, where Oscar Wilde was sentenced to hard labour for “indecent acts”, and the Savoy Theatre, which was the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electric lights. Central to the story are the actors, architects and managers who shaped this unique part of London, turning it from one of the city’s most disreputable slums into the glittering heart of British theatre.
Unlike traditional walking tours the app allows participants to explore at their own pace, perhaps stopping for a drink or two along the way. McKellen recommends the Coal Hole pub where Gilbert and Sullivan performed during Edwardian times.
Londoners can also use VoiceMap to create audio tours of their own, assisted by the company’s editors. This is free, and tours can be sold via the app at a price set by the tour creator, with royalties paid on each download.
VoiceMap is a mobile application available on iPhones or Android devices that uses your location to play GPS-activated audio tours automatically. It has a fast-growing catalogue of audio tours in over 50 cities worldwide, many of them by bestselling authors, foreign correspondents, and veteran broadcasters.