A BALLOT for tickets to see Sir Ian McKellen has been announced in response to huge demand for tickets ahead of his visit to Cumbria.

The Lord of the Rings star is set to bring his 80th birthday tour Ian McKellen on Stage to the Keswick's Theatre By The Lake, on August 20.

The ballot will be open for two weeks, from January 28 to February 11, and can be entered via the theatre's website or at the box office.

Rachel Swift, head of communications, said: “We’re delighted that Ian has included us in his birthday tour. We’ve experienced huge interest in tickets for his show and we felt the fairest way to manage the expected demand is via a ballot system.

“There will undoubtedly be a number of disappointed people as it’s very likely that demand will outweigh availability but we hope people understand that we are doing our best to be as fair and even-handed as possible.”

In a move to recognise the loyalty, one third of the seats will be weighted towards regular attenders, supporters and Friends of Theatre by the Lake, giving them a higher chance of being successful.

Tickets will be limited to two and the theatre has also changed its normal terms and conditions to ensure that ticket touts don’t capitalise on the special performance. Those successful in the ballot cannot re-sell or reallocate their tickets to others. Tickets will be held at the theatre until the day of the event and given to those with matching ID.

The intimate show, which will visit 80 venues in total, is a mixture of anecdote and acting, including Tolkien, Shakespeare and the audience themselves.

The 79-year-old has worked in British theatre since 1961. He's played leading roles including Richard II, and produced plays for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Great Britain. He is recognised worldwide as Magneto in the X-Men films and Gandalf in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings masterpieces

Ian McKellen 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 show 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. Growing up in Lancashire, I was grateful to those companies who toured beyond London and I’ve always enjoyed repaying that debt by touring up and down the country myself, with the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Prospect Theatre, the Actors’ Company, as well as with commercial productions. Sean Mathias, the director and I have worked together for stage and screen, many happy times.

"As a theatre-mad lad in Lancashire I used to see the travelling Century Theatre, which ended up permanently on Derwentwater. So my debut here is in gratitude for those long-ago productions and for the other times when I have seen the company at work in Keswick. The Lake District is my favourite part of the country, which is another reason I wanted to bring you my new show.”

The tour will raise funds for host theatres and will benefit Theatre By The Lakes's work supporting local communities, through their schools programme, Young and Elders Companies and Setting the Scene workshops for people living with dementia and their carers.