Fans of Sir Ian McKellen have inundated the Edinburgh International Festival with complaints after they missed out on tickets for his one-man show after supporters were given the chance to buy up to eight each before public sales opened.
The Festival has been branded “elitist” by critics after declaring the Lord of the Rings star’s four appearances – in which he will reprise some of his most famous roles – a sell-out within minutes of the box office opening on Saturday.
EIF patrons who pay up to £3000 a year for a range of benefits were able to secure their seats up to ten days beforehand.
Sir Ian announced a tour of 80 venues across the UK, including the 840-capacity Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, last November to mark his 80th birthday next month.
However ticket sales for the four-night EIF run did not begin until Saturday, when all other shows in its programme went on public sale.
Billed as an intimate mix of anecdote and acting reflecting on his career to date, the show will see him return to the venue on The Mound 50 years after he made his debut at the event.
At the time the tour was announced, the Olivier Award-winning actor said: “I’m celebrating my 80th birthday by touring a new solo show to theatres I know well and a few that I don’t. The evening starts with Gandalf and will probably end with an invitation to act with me on stage. In-between there will be anecdotes and acting.
“Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience. At the Edinburgh International Festival in 1969 I played Edward II and Richard II together at the Assembly Hall. My return is a chance to remember the old days and reprise Shakespeare and others.”
However fans who were relying on seeing Sir Ian in Edinburgh took to social media after being left empty-handed. They claimed the vast bulk of the tickets for the actor’s EIF run were bought by festival-goers in an official membership scheme. Priority booking opened for the “ambassador plus” memberships, which cost £3000 each, on March 27, the day the EIF programme was announced. “Patrons” who paid up to £550 got access to tickets two days later, while booking for “festival friends”, who paid up to £120 each, opened on March 30.
One fan, posting under the name Gin & Curiosity, told the actor: “What a shame your Edinburgh shows were parcelled up with @edintfest.
“They seemingly pre-sold the majority of tickets to their wealthy patrons/friends for ten days in advance and refuse to say how many tickets were actually released to the general public. #elitist”
The Festival responded to complaints by insisting that tickets for each of Sir Ian’s appearances went on public sale with all the other events in the programme but did not specify how many tickets were held back from the pre-sale.
It said: “An allocation was held back for ticket sales opening to everyone at 10am today. It’s just been incredibly popular and sold out very quickly. If any more become available, they will be listed on our website.”