The first round of winners of the prestigious Fringe First Awards, announced in Edinburgh today, include Gregory Burke's Gagarin Way (pictured), a National Theatre collaboration which will transfer to London later this year. The other five winning productions, hailing from Poland, Ireland, Norway and North America, underscored the international nature of this year's Edinburgh Fringe, the world's largest arts festival.

Gagarin Way, by first-time playwright Burke, is a cruel comedy about a human heist that goes horribly wrong. The Scotsman, which judges the Fringe Firsts, called it a "fast-moving debut packed with brilliant, sharp fragments of political language and thought". Post-festival, the production, directed by John Tiffany, will move to London and the National's Cottesloe Theatre, opening on 3 October 2001 (previews from 28 September).

The Traverse, Edinburgh's premiere venue for new writing, scooped another Fringe First this week with Iain Heggie's Wiping My Mother's Arse. The four-hander about the mistreatment of old people was hailed as "complicated, clever and teasing".

Other winners were: Teatre Provisorium's Ferdyduke based on the Polish novel by Witold Gombrowicz; Niels Fredrik Dahl's play about Scandinavian claustrophobia, Like Thunder; the one-man show Runt, written and directed by Michael Philip Edwards; and acclaimed Irish writer Enda Walsh's intertwined monologues, Bedbound.

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.

The Edinburgh Fringe, the world's largest arts festival, continues to 27 August. The 2001 event features 666 companies presenting 1,462 shows from 50 different countries.

- by Terri Paddock