Ian McKellen, who’s about to begin 18 months of filming for The Hobbit in New Zealand, revealed on his blog recently that he will take regular breaks over that period in order to “escape Middle Earth” and take on other projects. And according to the Daily Mail, during one of these breaks he will return to the UK to star in a play called The Syndicate, based on a 1960 work by Italian playwright Eduardo De Filippo (called Il sindaco del rione Sanità - or The mayor of the district health), at Chichester Festival Theatre.

According to the Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, the production will be directed by Sean Mathias (who recently directed McKellen in Waiting for Godot) and may also star Michael Pennington. McKellen will play a "Neapolitan crime boss" called Don Antonio Barracano, who settles disputes in his district and dispenses his own brand of justice. Quite a change from Gandalf, then!