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Last Updated: Monday, 7 August 2006, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Smith rethink on smoking gesture
Mel Smith
Mel Smith smoked during a press call at the Assembly Rooms
Actor Mel Smith has pulled back from defying the ban on smoking in public places during a performance at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The star, who plays Churchill in the play Allegiance, had flouted the ban in a photocall at the Assembly Rooms and promised to do the same on stage.

However, he kept his Havana cigar unlit on Monday morning.

Edinburgh City Council had warned that it would shut the whole venue should the law be broken.

William Burdett Coutts
It was an extremely serious situation because the council said it would never give me a licence again
William Burdett Coutts
Assembly Rooms

William Burdett Coutts, the venue's artistic director, said he said he had been told he would lose his Fringe licence for good if the actor had smoked during his performance.

He said: "I am very glad Mel didn't smoke although one cheeky part of me would have loved to have seen him do it.

"I was told before his first performance on Monday by the council's chief enforcement officer that if Mel had smoked on stage I would have been given a 1,000 fine and he would shut down the entire premises.

"It was an extremely serious situation because he said he would also never give me a licence again.

"I am delighted he didn't do it as he hadn't given me any assurances before the show started."

Realistic alternatives

He added that he thought it was "stupid when smoking is an integral part of a show to enforce this law".

The director said: "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."

I am looking forward to going to see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Carol Jappy, Grangemouth

After the performce, which finished at 1230 BST, the actor smoked out of the window at the venue in an act of defiance.

The play, directed by Brian Gilbert, is inspired by the Irish independence leader Michael Collins' visit to London in 1921.

Mel Smith hit out at the Scottish Parliament last month, saying the smoking ban would have delighted Churchill's arch-enemy Adolf Hitler.

Several other Fringe producers have hinted that they intend to flout the ban.

A Scottish Executive spokesman said "realistic alternatives" could be used for the purposes of theatre shows.

See Mel Smith's views on Scotland's smoking ban


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