An American actress suffering from a life-threatening brain tumour and her husband-director both won awards yesterday for their contributions to this year's Edinburgh Fringe.

Nancy Walsh (pictured), who has been appearing in the monologue Cincinnati about a woman's mental decline after leaving her family, collapsed from a brain seizure last month while preparing for the festival in her native New York. When she returns to the US, she will return to the hospital for further surgery. Her fortitude was rewarded yesterday with The Scotsman's Spirit of the Fringe Award.

Her husband John Clancy, who directed Walsh in Cincinnati, was also on hand to accept the coveted Best of the Fringe Firsts award for his other production, of CJ Hopkins' comedy drama assault on American consumerist culture, Horse Country. This is only the second year that this award has been presented for the very best of the premieres presented at the festival. Last year's winner, Gregory Burke's Gagarin Way went on to the National Theatre and the West End.

The final weekly round of this year's Fringe First awards were also announced yesterday. They are: Jess Curtis' dance drama Fallen; Hyperlynx, John McGrath's last play, about the power of multinationals; Yvette Boszik's physical theatre piece, Double Trouble; Who's Harry?, a comedy from White Knight Productions; the cabaret-style Black to My Roots, about black "nappy" hair; and Walsh's Cincinnati.

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.

In a separate award, Gyles Brandreth's Zipp!, which condenses 100 musicals into 90 minutes of performance, was voted the best show of 2002 by 1,000 voters on the Fringe website. The Edinburgh Fringe, the world's largest arts festival, ends this bank holiday Monday, 26 August 2002.

- by Terri Paddock