Edinburgh Fringe: Ian McKellen's Hamlet beanies auction in aid of dancing bursary at Edinburgh’s Festival Ballet School

Lord of the Rings and X-Men star Ian McKellen has announced that a new bursary bearing his name will help future young dance students at Edinburgh's prestigious Festival Ballet School, the News can exclusively reveal.

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The 82-year-old star of Hamlet, which is due to run at St Stephen's throughout this year's Fringe, will add to the bursaries by auctioning off eight of the 'Hamlet' beanies he wears during the production at a number of exclusive after-show Q&A talks, which will take place on August 3, 4, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24.

Director and choreographer of Hamlet, Peter Schaufuss, who is also founder of Edinburgh Festival Ballet School, says, “This is an incredible generous legacy gift from Ian to the youngsters of Scotland. Long after the Fringe has ended, his generosity will ensure that young up and coming dancers benefit for years to come.

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The two Hamlets, Ian McKellen and Johan Christiansen appear together at the Edinburgh Fringe   Pic: Devin De VilThe two Hamlets, Ian McKellen and Johan Christiansen appear together at the Edinburgh Fringe   Pic: Devin De Vil
The two Hamlets, Ian McKellen and Johan Christiansen appear together at the Edinburgh Fringe Pic: Devin De Vil

“We are also thrilled that Ian has agreed to meet the public and answer questions about his incredible career over seven decades at eight Q&A events following performances of Hamlet.”

Edinburgh Festival Ballet School, of which Darcey Bussell DBE became a patron in 2020, was founded a year earlier by the internationally-renowned dancer and director Schaufuss and provides world-class training for those looking to pursue a professional career in dance. On completion of their three years’ training at the school, graduates receive an SQA Higher National Diploma (Professional Dance Performance) and Peter Schaufuss Diploma.

The Hamlet After Party, a cabaret-style show featuring McKellen, acclaimed musical entertainer Richard Lewis and cast members from the Hamlet company will take place in the Lower Hall at Saint Stephen's on St Stephen Street. During each after-show event, the beanie hat worn by McKellen at that day’s performance will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Tickets for the Hamlet After Party are priced at £16.50 each and available here.

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Edinburgh Festival: Lord of the Rings star Ian McKellen as Hamlet will launch ne...
Ian McKellen - Hamlet  Pic: Devin De VilIan McKellen - Hamlet  Pic: Devin De Vil
Ian McKellen - Hamlet Pic: Devin De Vil

In a long and distinguished career, Ian McKellen has played Hamlet twice, in productions 50 years apart. In 1971 he toured in the role as well as playing it on London’s West End and then last year, aged 81, he revisited the character in an age, colour, and gender-blind production at Windsor’s Theatre Royal.

In Hamlet, which will receive its world première at this year’s Fringe, the veteran actor will share the role with dancer Johan Christiansen who will dance the part of Hamlet with a corps de ballet from the Edinburgh Festival Ballet Company – McKellen will perform Hamlet’s famous speeches, soliloquies and more, remaining on stage throughout the 75-minute performance.

The production will launch the 400-seat Ashton Hall at Saint Stephen's, a new performance venue for Edinburgh.

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McKellen says, “At a crucial moment in Hamlet, Shakespeare describes in detail a dance, performed by the actors touring through Elsinore. Hamlet says, ‘What a piece of work is a man... how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable in action.’ The same could be said of Peter Schaufuss and his company of wonderful dancers. It’s inspiring to watch them and work with them.”

Hamlet runs at the Ashton Hall, Saint Stephen's, St Stephen Street, from August 2-28, Tuesday-Sunday, 7pm, Friday/Saturday matinees 4pm, £30, tickets here.

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