by Tim Cornwell
The Scotsman, 10 Aug 2006
A production of Animal Farm was shut down on the eve of the Fringe by agents acting for George Orwell's estate, it emerged yesterday.
The show was due to open at the C venue last week, and about 150 people had bought tickets. But it was hit by a sharp warning from PFD, one of Britain's biggest literary agencies, to "cease all performances immediately".
The play, Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad, was due to have been performed by Splendid Productions, which specialises in political theatre for young people.
Kerry Frampton, who runs the group, admitted she had "essentially screwed up" by failing to pin down the rights to Animal Farm, and the company had lost about £3,000. "We're gutted, but we understand that they are angry. It's become a very expensive holiday," she said.
Orwell is proving his lasting appeal this year. At the Quaker Meeting House, 1984 is playing to full houses, while Animal Farm, a one-man show directed by Fringe veteran Guy Masterson and a proven hit in years past, is at the Assembly Rooms.
The Orwell estate is known to be fiercely protective of the writer's legacy. "They are very, very tough," Mr Masterson said. "They are very stringent and very fair. If you try to do an Orwell piece without permission, Big Brother is watching you."
In the fiercely competitive Fringe environment, there was concern about a clash between the two plays, Ms Frampton said.
A C venue spokesman described the abrupt cancellation as "pretty disastrous" - it has been replaced with a show called Little Red Ridinghood.
"We negotiated on their behalf, represented their interests to no avail, and the show was then cancelled and replaced," he said. "The Fringe is supposed to be an open, fun thing where you can bring what you want and do what you want, and obviously in this case that's not happened."
Splendid Productions has become one of the most successful school touring companies in the UK. It first applied for the rights to Animal Farm last year but was turned down. It changed the show, took it on a UK tour, then planned to take it to Edinburgh, Ms Frampton said.
But it was effectively shut down by an e-mail from Nicki Stoddart, an agent with PFD, which represents the dramatic rights to Animal Farm, and the various licensed versions.
It read: "In May 2005, you approached us seeking permission for this adaptation and the Estate confirmed that permission was not granted. I clearly told you that and you clearly understood it was a 'no'. They therefore require you to cease all performance plans immediately."
Ms Stoddart said: "The correct procedure to get a licence wasn't really attended to ... so they are not doing it."
Paul Gudgin, the Fringe director, said rights holders routinely scanned the programme for unlicensed shows. "It's always a tragedy when this happens," he said. "The issue is to make sure you secure the rights before you come to the Fringe. It's the first piece of advice we give them."
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