Set in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, Outlying Islands follows two young Cambridge ornithologists who travel to a remote, uninhabited Scottish island on a government mission to survey the indigenous birds. The Scotsman, which judges the Fringe Firsts, called the play a "superb, sexy and often fiercely fast-moving drama". The production, directed by Philip Howard, continues at the Traverse until 24 August before transferring to the Royal Court from 5 to 28 September 2002.
A second Fringe First went to the Traverse for Gary Owen's The Drowned World, which also continues at the venue until 24 August. In a futuristic land where the once-spurned imperfect have taken control and attraction can be fatal, Tara and Julian are waiting for their ethnic cleansing order.
A Paines Plough production, The Drowned World is directed by artistic director Vicky Featherstone. The renowned touring company's many previous award-winning productions have included Owen's Crazy Gary's Mobile Disco, Abi Morgan's Tiny Dynamite and Splendour and, earlier this year, Douglas Maxwell's Helmet.
The three other Fringe First winners were: The Laramie Project, Moises Kaufman's play about the real-life 1998 murder of a gay student in Wyoming; Julian Garner's Silent Engine about a couple coping with the death of their daughter; and La Divina Commedia from Russian physical theatre group Derevo.
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 26 August.
- by Terri Paddock