This makes me so furious that I can barely speak:
The Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh will be shut down if actor Mel Smith flouts Scotland's smoking ban, its director has been told. The comedian, who is playing Winston Churchill in a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, is said to be planning to smoke during a performance on Monday. The actor recently vowed to continue to ignore the ban at the Fringe festival.
Venue director William Burdett Coutts said he was in an "extremely serious situation". He said he has also been told he will lose his Fringe licence for good if the actor smokes during his performance.Mr Burdett Coutts said: "We have just been visited by the chief enforcement officer who has told me if Mel Smith smokes on stage then I will be given a £1,000 fine and he will shut down the entire premises. He said he would also never give me a licence again so I'm in an extremely serious situation.
"I have been to speak to Mel but he hasn't given me assurances that he will not smoke during his show. I think it is stupid when smoking is an integral part of a show to enforce this law. I am all for a smoking ban in bars but not to have an actor smoking while he represents a character in history who did smoke is absurd."
This is utterly unbelievable. The refusal to grant an exemption to actors smoking on stage during a play was always petty and moronic; the threat to withdraw the Assembly Rooms' license - for good - if an actor playing Churchill lights a cigar on stage is grotesquely over the top, and makes a mockery of Edinburgh's claim to be the hub of artistic freedom and expression for three weeks every year.
I hadn't been planning to watch this show, but now I might. Smith is on stage as I write this. I hope he has lit the fucking thing by now - and I bet there is a rousing standing ovation when he does.
It's ironic that the touchpaper should be lit by a play about Churchill, reckoned by many to be our nation's greatest hero of modern times; the man who helped saved us from the worst imaginable tyranny. And many people, myself included, throw the word "fascism" about far too lightly; none of us will, I hope, know real fascism in our lifetimes. But that the authorities now seem set to ban a play about his life for the ubiquitous, and entirely disingenuous, reason of "health and safety" is a small, but telling, commentary on where we are as a society; and, in the circumstances, "fascist" seems an entirely appropriate description of the Council's behaviour.
UPDATE: Faced with the realization that an accurate portrayal of his character would quite possibly cost the venue its license, and several people their jobs, Smith did not light the cigar. I find it hard to express how enraging and dispiriting I find all this. The cunts win, again.