Subject matter covered by the award-winning shows includes the life of Australian dancer Robert Helpman, racism in a New Zealand corner shop, tenement life, Scottish poetry, personal development programmes and the anomie of modern air travel.
The Fringe First Awards, presented by The Scotsman newspaper in conjunction with the Fringe Society, are the festival's most prestigious recognition for drama. They were established in 1973 when there was concern that the Fringe was not attracting the right quantity and quality of shows. The awards are announced weekly during the festival. There is no fixed number given and the only requirement for consideration is that the work must be new - having had no fewer than six performances in the UK, prior to the Fringe.
“Endeavour is the key word,” noted The Scotsman when announcing this week s winners. “What we are looking for is talent and promise and ideas....So the young student company which is the Riot Group, playing in a tiny garret down one of Edinburgh's back lanes can find themselves on the same bill as Paines Plough, playing at the Traverse and probably the leading English touring company of the moment.”
This week s winners, and the reasonings for their recognition, are as follows:
Lyrebird: Tales of Helpmann, written and performed by Tyler Coppin, directed by Adam Cook
At the Assembly Rooms until 30 August
Robert Helpmann was the most famous male dancer and choreographer of his day which - probably fortunately - was just before Nureyev jumped over the airport barrier and fled to the West. Emerging from Australia's male culture of the time was an escape act worthy of Houdini though, as Tyler Coppin's vastly enjoyable romp of a show makes clear, there was a price to pay. In a sense, a conventional biopic format for a one-man show but carried off with a degree of flair entirely in keeping with its subject.
Krishnan's Dairy, written and performed by Jacob Rajan, directed by Justin Lewis, Guy Masterson productions in association with Indian Ink theatre company
At the Traverse until 4 September
In the hurly-burly of the Fringe, where sometimes it seems that he who shouts loudest is heard first, it would be easy to overlook this subtle, delicate and even - that deadly word - charming play. The charm, with some clever production business, almost masks what is actually rather a tough story of an immigrant corner shop-keeper who is shot by racist thugs and whose reluctant wife makes a success of the business, all reflected against that other love-story which led to the building of the Taj Mahal.
Riddance by Linda MacLean, directed by Vicky Featherstone, Paines Plough
At the Traverse until 4 September
In some city, in some flat, somewhere around nowish, three people who were all brought up in the same tenement come together. In a taut 70 minutes, Linda MacLean reveals the way their various childhood interactions have left scars and other damage. Not cheery, then, but unexpected in the way it is worked out and discovering in the writing, in the first full-length production of MacLean's work, a distinctive new voice.
Dreamstate, based on the original Polygon anthology edited by Donny O'Rourke, directed by Deborah Andrews
Messengers, written and directed by Robin Wilson
Both produced by Theatre Works
At the Theatre Workshop until 30 August
These two small-scale shows, both about different aspects of being Scottish now, alternate in the same time-slot. One is a new piece of theatre set in a dysfunctional Scotland of the near future; the other is a radical reworking of some recent Scottish poetry into a quietly effective performance piece. Individually they might have been too slight to merit an award; together, they represent a high water-mark in the achievements of Theatre Works.
Wreck the Airline Barrier, written by Adriano Shaplin, The Riot Group, directed by the company from Sarah Lawrence College
At the Garage until 29 August
It s almost impossible to believe that two of the three performers and the writer of this confidently strident piece are still only 20. Full of deliriously bad language, the collision between the vacuity of 'personal development programmes' and the anomie of air travel is violently funny and aggressive, presented with high-energy but tightly disciplined performances. In its tiny upstairs room, a real Fringe find.