The first six winners of this year's prestigious Fringe First Awards, celebrating high quality new drama at the Edinburgh Festival, have been announced by The Scotsman newspaper, which presents the awards every year to outstanding new writing premiered on the Fringe.

The Container at the Underbelly, the site-specific production much-talked about for being staged inside an actual container lorry, was one of the first to scoop an award. A freight container, somewhere in Europe. Inside are five people with one common aim: to reach England and start a new life. Can they trust the agent to get them there? Can they rely on each other? And how far will each of them go to get what they want?

The critically acclaimed The Walworth Farce was also a winner at the Traverse. Written by Enda Walsh and directed by Mikel Murfi, it is presented by Druid Theatre. Other winners include: Tim Crouch’s new play England (playing at the Fruitmarket Gallery), a tale of global injustice, its drama arising from the question of where an expensive heart transplant has come from; Fiona EvansScarborough (Assembly Rooms), a drama about a love affair between a school teacher and a pupil; and Truth in Translation (Assembly Hall) with music by Hugh Masekela.

The final piece singled out in this week’s round was Damascus (pictured - Traverse), a new play by the prolific Scottish playwright David Greig, which tells the story of an Englishman stumbling through his first contact with Arab culture. Greig’s version of The Bacchae, with Alan Cumming, is also one of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, which opens today (See Today’s Other News).

The Fringe First Awards 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, with the next round winners being announced on 17 August 2007. There is no fixed number given and the only requirement is that the work must be new - having had no more than six performances in the UK, prior to the Fringe.

The Edinburgh Fringe, the world's largest arts festival and now in its 61st year, opened this year on 5 August and continues to 27 August (See News, 3 Aug 2007). During the Fringe, there will be an estimated 18,626 performers presenting 31,000 performances of a record-breaking 2,050 shows in 250 venues. It is also the first Fringe under new artistic director Jon Morgan (See News, 26 Mar 2007).

- by Tom Atkins