Dale Fuchs

Madrid: An independent theatre festival in Toledo lost its Government subsidies for refusing to cancel a show that satirises the Pope and advocates atheism. And comedian Leo Bassi, who stages the show, has pledged to take it to a venue near the Vatican in Rome. ''I'm looking forward to it,'' he said. It is the latest front in a battle that has raged since February around Mr. Bassi's act, Revelation, which has angered the Catholic Church in Spain, sparked violent protests by the extreme Right in Madrid and fuelled a nationwide debate on artistic freedom. Mr Bassi's show, which also pokes fun at Christian evangelists in America and the Old Testament, will be performed at a makeshift venue. Last Sunday, the Archbishop of Toledo, Antonio Canizares, said the show was ''blasphemous'' and an ''insult to the Church''. , the local and regional governments of Toledo threatened to withdraw festival subsidies if the show was not cancelled. At the end of his show the New York-born comedian directs the audience to his website, where there is a form on which they can renounce their faith. He considers the work ''reverse evangelism''. In March, police defused a bomb near Mr Bassi's dressing room at the Alfil Theatre in Madrid.