Nathan Cunningham was attending a sold-out performance of Shit-Faced Shakespeare during an annual family trip to the Capital. But when he took his seat inside McEwan Hall ahead of Friday night’s performance, a lack of legroom left him feeling crushed.
Staff for promoters Underbelly allegedly told Mr Cunningham to adjust the way he was sitting before offering him a single seat two rows in front with more legroom.
The 30-year-old declined after being told his family could not join him and when he asked if he should leave, he claims a member of staff said: “It’s probably for the best”.
To make matters worse he says a staff member added: “Don’t feel too bad, you should be proud to be the tallest person we’ve ever had here.”
Mr Cunningham, from Glasgow, left the venue with his family flabbergasted at how “unprofessional” staff treated him. He said: “My family and I meet up in Edinburgh twice a year when they come up from Newcastle. I was attending the show with my sister and her partner.
“It was unreserved pew-style seating and I could not get my knees in when I sat down so I was taking up two seats. Staff told me to change the way I was sitting but there was no room for my legs.
“I come to the festival with my family and that’s how I wanted to spend it. I didn’t want to be sat on my own. With it being unreserved I thought they may have been able to move us all but it was a flat no.
“I asked what policy the venue had for people with different needs and they said they didn’t have one which I couldn’t believe.”
He added: “In regards to being proud, you can’t say that to someone. If I was overweight or disabled they never would have said anything. I was just shocked. The people dealing with the situation were young so they clearly didn’t have the appropriate training. It was a blatant infringement on consumer rights and discrimination.”
Despite arranging to stay in the Capital for the weekend, Mr Cunningham returned home the following day and said his family trip was “ruined” by his bad experience.
He said: “The next morning I told my parents and they were just in disbelief. I was flabbergasted and it took me a while to process what had happened. But I decided to go home because I just was not in the mood after that. We love coming to the Fringe and it just spoilt the whole weekend.
“I was amazed to hear they did not have a policy for people with additional needs. I can’t have been the only tall person to go to that venue this year. The Fringe is based on its diversity and social inclusion, but this was the complete opposite. I just couldn’t believe the attitude of the staff. I’ve never been through anything like this before.
“I found Underbelly incredibly unprofessional. They only got back in touch with me yesterday to apologise and offered us a refund.”
An Underbelly spokesman said: “During last Friday’s sold-out performance of Shit-Faced Shakespeare in McEwan Hall, front of house was made aware of a group of patrons one of whom was not able to take available seats due to his height. The patron was offered a different seat with more legroom, however decided to leave the show as he did not want to be separated from his group and it was the last available seat in the area given the show was about to go up.
“We have been in contact with the patron to apologise for any inconvenience caused and refunded their ticket.”