In total, 17 productions premiered at this year's festival were recognised with Fringe Firsts (See News 24 Aug, 11 Aug & 18 Aug 2006). 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’s no fixed number given and the only requirement for consideration is that the work must be new - having had no more than six performances in the UK, prior to the Fringe.
At the final Fringe Firsts ceremony on Friday, Liverpool Everyman’s verbatim drama about local prostitutes, Unprotected (Traverse), was also presented with Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression award.
Meanwhile, fellow Scottish newspaper the Herald has awarded Herald Angels across the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe for the past ten years. Each week during the Festival period, Herald critics decide which acts, performers or artists they think are deserving of recognition. In the case of outstanding performances, an Archangel may be presented. A final award - the Devil - is presented to those who demonstrate ‘the show must go on’ attitude when adversity strikes.
Among this year’s Angels were: Fringe company New International Encounter for Past Half Remembered at the Pleasance; Australian music comedy trio the Kransky Sisters; string players the Sacconi Quartet; Opera National de Lyon; the New Riga Theatre for the Latvian show Long Life; New York drag queen Taylor Mac; Missouri band The Wilders; and Howard Jacobson for the reading of his novel, Kalooki Nights. Classical pianist Steven Osborne received an Archangel, and EIF’s artist manager Jill Jones and musician Emily Beynon received Little Devil awards.
The Stage newspaper also handed out performance awards for (See News, 24 Aug 2006): Best Actor to Paul Sparks for his performance as ageing stoner Chase in Finer Noble Gases; Best Actress to Caroline O'Connor for End of the Rainbow about the life of Judy Garland; Best Ensemble to the National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch (also a Fringe First winner); and Best Solo Show to Daniel Kitson for C-90.
In comedy, the first-ever if.comeddies award, formerly the Perriers and now sponsored by Scotland-based mortgage company Intelligent Finance (See News, 14 Jun 2006), has been presented to Phil Nichol (who’s also been acting this year in Talk Radio and True West) for his stand-up show The Naked Racist. Meanwhile, the award for Best Newcomer was given to Josie Long for Kindness and Exuberance, while the panel prize winner was Mark Watson (See The Goss, 24 Aug 2006).
The Fringe’s parent event, the Edinburgh International Festival, opened on 13 August and continues until 3 September (See News), 11 Aug 2006).
- by Caroline Ansdell