An act of Pod

Venue sparks 2004's first Fringe row

The three biggest comedy venues on the Edinburgh Fringe have slated a new venue for muscling in on the best talent.

Acts including Danny Bhoy, Jenny Eclair and Des Clarke are to appear at the new Pod Deco venue this summer, after being offered better deals than at the more established rooms.

The Pleasance, the Assembly Rooms, and the Gilded Balloon have all complained about the poaching of the big names, claiming it will affect their ability to subsidise up-and-coming acts.

Yet few performers who play the Fringe at any level make a profit, and the deal offered by Pod managers Cyclops Entertainment could swing the deal. The big three are also facing pressure from the Underbelly, which is also luring established names.

Manchester-based Cyclops have reportedly offered an 80:20 box office split in favour of the performer for top draws like Bhoy instead of the Fringe's usual 60:40 slot. Even their standard deal is better, at 65:35.

Assembly Rooms boss William Burdett Coutts has said of The Pod: "I don't think they will make it viable. The Fringe has a delicate economy and you can't upset it."

While the Pleasance's Christopher Richardson told The Scotsman: "If you take away the income from the bigger acts and spread that too thinly then everyone is in a less secure position."

And Karen Koren at the Gilded Balloon added: "It is very difficult for us to put on exciting shows if new venues are coming in and diluting the amount of acts available."

But others have spoken out in support of the venue - an art deco cinema currently awaiting its fate at the hands of developers.

Comedians' manager Marlene Zwickler told today's paper: "This is so protective, this is so not Fringe. They are just miffed that new people have come in. It's supposed to be the world's best arts festival, open to anyone."

And Heidi Waddington, who runs Cyclops with her husband Andy, said : "I understand there could be some ill feeling because we came along. The big three have never been challenged. Obviously we are going to put some noses out of joint."

Fringe director Paul Gudgin remained the diplomat, saying: "We need more performers, we need more spaces to perform. But we don't particularly want them cutting each other's throats."

Published: 28 Apr 2004

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