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Seventh Annual Fringe Report Awards Announced

By • Off-West End
“Coming from an all girls Scottish grammar school, I feel you don’t know you’re good until you’ve got a prize” joked Kate Copstick at the 7th annual Fringe Report Awards. And it seems the journalist, who won Reviewer of the Year at the awards hosted at the Leicester Square Theatre on 9 February, 2009, isn’t the only one who thinks so as the glistening gowns and tearful thanks of award season demonstrate.

Established in 2002, the Fringe Report awards are a far cry away from the frills of some award shows; speeches limited to one minute maximum, the crowd casually dressed (and half drenched from the rain) and the stars mixed with the general public. However, the awards which aim to honour talent sometimes overlooked by the masses, mean no less than those who make ten times the fuss and the recipients were no less worthy.

This year, 25 acts in theatre, film, art and more as well as two recipients from previous years were given their due applause with a big bottle of champagne and a lot of praise from presenters Emma Taylor, Sarah-Louise Young, Martin Witts and Fringe Report editor John Park.

Amongst the awards was Best Radio Drama Producer presented to Marie Runacre Temple, founder of the Wireless Theatre Company. Creating a new look at theatre for the “iPod generation”, the company were described by John Park as “a cauldron of excellence” and their original concept was just one of the sometimes neglected categories awarded. Best Publication was awarded to ‘This is Ull’, the “alternative media website from Hull” and Best Storyteller went to Kate Corkery who stressed how valuable the award was to a profession normally ignored.

This theme continued through other awards as the sometimes forgotten backbone of production was praised alongside the creative. Matt Beer was applauded with Best Venue Publicist for his work with Zoo Venues who work at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Best Venue manager, Jasmine Cullingford, was commended on her work with the Blue Elephant theatre and the duo of Adrian Jones and Amanda Ross received Best Arts Organisers for their company Corsica Studios. Steven Gove, founder and director of the Prague Fringe festival now in its eighth year, won Best Festival Director.

Neil McPherson was praised for his work as artistic director at the Finborough Theatre where he has been since 1999 with no surprise, the Best Artistic Director award. Best Press Officer was awarded to Kim Weisener and the unusual award of “Best Talent Encourager” went to 10 in a Bed Theatre Company. The company, who were established in 2003, aim to present emerging talent to as diverse an audience as possible. The introduction of their ‘New Writing Sunday’ in 2006 has helped up and coming writers work their pieces through the rehearsal stage as well as receiving feedback for the initial play texts.

Gus Robertson came away with Best Musical Impresario, Jackie Skarvellis with Best Fringe Auteur and Kate Burnett was awarded Best Curator for Collaborators: UK Design for Performance 2003-2007. One of the final awards went to Slepe Lásky’s work Blind Loves, a feature in to the way people live without sight, for Best Romantic Documentary.

The usual suspects were also honoured; Claire Fontaine won Best Performance for her role as Mrs Arbuthnot in A Woman of No Importance and Toni Servillo achieved the Best Actor honour for his 2008 performance as Giulio Andreotti in Il Divo. Howard and Mimi was awarded Best Play after its run at the Hen and Chickens, Soho and Hampstead theatres. A “sublime gem”, The Bird was given the title of Best Musical and though the cast, all learning disabled and based in the West Midlands, could not be there, we were told of their latest project, Tempest in a Teacup.

Enviable title of Best Production went to Yard Gal at the Oval House Theatre. Rebecca Pritchard’s ‘terrifying’ look at gang life had already achieved critical acclaim after she won the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright and the latest production itself was given praise from audience and critics alike. Three of those behind the production went to St Mary’s University, Twickenham and stated how the production wouldn’t have happened if they had not met there; perhaps a sign of what can make fringe theatre so appealing, the close knit groups and friends creating the work rather than complete strangers.

Away from theatre, Best Comedy Film was presented to all from Enter the Preacher directed by Paulette James though we were told that were there also an award for “best closing line ever”, the film should win that too. Best Feature was given to Awaydays; a look at a middle class child who becomes part of the notorious “Pack” gang, directed by Pat Holden. Jake Spicer was given his champagne for Best Artist for his work as a painter, printer and draughtsman.

Some couldn’t be there to collect their award; most notably The Moustache Brothers, winners of Best Political Comedy, who live in hiding in their native Burma for past criticism of the government. And though with not quite as exciting an excuse, Christopher Richardson was forced to accept Graham Fellows award for Best Character Comedy while Graham “protected Sheffield from snow”. However, the presentation of Abi Titmuss’ Best Newcomer award from 2007 and Justin Edwards Best Actor in a Comedy from 2006 for his role in What’s The Time Mr Lyon gave the awards a unique feel; past or present, everyone was given their due reward.

The diverse collection of non-mainstream talent is a welcome addition to an awards season that is sometimes too orientated with status and names. A non-extravagant ceremony for non-extravagant works, faces and talents; some celebrating the beginning of hopefully successful careers and others reflecting on a life of achievements.

- by Melissa Rynn

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