Fringe Firsts: six more winners of our Edinburgh Fringe new writing awards revealed

Themes from climate change to mental health are explored by this week’s Scotsman award-winners

Our team of critics has seen hundreds of shows over the past two weeks; after careful consideration and a lot of debate, today we are delighted to announce our second group of 2022 Fringe First winners, in partnership with the University of Edinburgh.

Established in 1973, the Fringe Firsts are recognised all over the world and are the most prestigious theatre awards at the festival. Their purpose is to recognise outstanding new writing premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe, and they are awarded once a week throughout each year’s festival; there is no set number each week.

Our judging panel is chaired by the Scotsman’s chief theatre critic, Joyce McMillan, and this year consists of critics Mark Fisher, Susan Mansfield, Sally Stott, Fiona Shepherd and David Pollock. We are very grateful to them for all their hard work in seeing, and debating long into the night, dozens of shows that have been nominated for the award by our wider team of critics.

Maimuna Memon in her Fringe First winning show Manic Street Creature, at Summerhall.

This week’s Fringe First winners will receive their awards today at the Pleasance Courtyard, at a ceremony featuring special guest presenter Robert Bathurst, well known for his roles in everything from Cold Feet and Downton Abbey to Toast of London. Robert is at the Fringe this year in Love, Loss and Chianti, a double bill of plays at 12.55pm in the Assembly Rooms.

We would like to thank the University of Edinburgh for continuing to support the awards, and also the Pleasance for hosting our awards ceremonies.

We will announce more Fringe First winners on Friday 26 August. This week’s winners are as follows:

Ode To Joy (written by James Ley)

Summerhall, 6.20pm, until 28 August

What we said: “A celebration of gay sex so exuberant and explicit that the programme features a 14-word ‘glossary of gay’, full of eye-popping terms for various forms of gay sex, and the drugs that often accompany the experience. Ode To Joy is not a story for the faint-hearted, as it charts the journey of its hero Gordon, a civil servant with the Scottish government, from timid gay adventures with “Prince Charming types”, to full-on nights of hedonism at the famous Berghain club in Berlin. Brian Evans turns in a beautifully funny and engaging performance as Gordon, alongside a riotous Marc McKinnon and Sean Connor as his chums Tom and Marcus, aka Manpussy and Cumpig. And in the end, he not only finds love as well as wild promiscuous sex, but also sees a political dream come true, as - come 2029 - Scotland finally rejoins the European Union; in more senses of the word “union” than any playwright, till now, has dared to dramatise.” (Joyce McMillan)

You're Safe Til 2024: Deep History (written by David Finnigan)

Pleasance Courtyard, 7.45pm, until 29 August

What we said: “It’s hard to imagine a fresh perspective on climate change, but David Finnigan finds one by looking both at the deep past and at 72 hours at the end of 2019, when ordinary Australians were forced to drive on burning highways to escape the fires. While the science is not new, and is never going to be anything less than frightening, he finds a way to make it human, drawing us in to the story he’s telling. At the end of an hour, we realise we have listened in a new way.” (Susan Mansfield)

Brown Boys Swim (written by Karim Khan)

Pleasance Dome, 2.30pm, until 28 August

What we said: “What matters to a teenage boy? School, family, ambitions for the future, maybe; but there’s also the vital business of getting invited to the right parties. In Karim Khan’s brilliant coming-of-age play Brown Boys Swim, it’s a pool party that sets the whole story in motion, to which one of the coolest girls in school invites everyone, except best mates Mohsen and Kash, who - being Asian boys - she just assumes will be unable to swim. In the end, the story takes a sombre turn, lending a huge poignancy to all that has gone before.” (Joyce McMillan)

Manic Street Creature (written by Maimuna Memon)

Summerhall, 3.55pm, until 28 August

What we said: “In this in-the-round show by actor and musician Maimuna Memon, her character Ria set out from the Lancashire of her youth to a London whose streets are hopefully paved with gold for someone with her talents. In this context, the wistful, hopeful texture of her songs and the spoken word inserts between them, in which she outlines her story almost entirely in monologue, captures a contemporary way of life beautifully. It's an engrossing piece filled with evocative, appropriate songs, but where Memon’s play feels really fresh and new is in its honest, tender and unconventional take on subjects surrounding mental illness, particularly the toll which loving someone with mental health issues can exact. It offers no easy answers, but the questions it asks are absolutely heartfelt.” (David Pollock)

Truth's A Dog Must To Kennel (written by Tim Crouch)

Royal Lyceum Theatre Studio, 8.15pm, until 29 August

What we said: “It is Tim Crouch’s fate to deliver live performances so full of precision and connection, narrative energy and a profound sense of tragedy, that they often do more to demonstrate the power of theatre than to answer his existential questions about it. Crouch is a master storyteller for our times, wise, grief-stricken, helpless but authoritative; and here he constructs a narrative of an upmarket performance of King Lear that becomes utterly urgent and compelling.” (Joyce McMillan)

Aberdeen (written by Cassie Workman)

Just the Tonic at the Nucleus, 4pm, until 28 August

“In her epic hour long poem about Kurt Cobain, Cassie Workman asks: ‘What if?’, travelling through space and time into an imaginary world where the Nirvana frontman might not have died. Her rhythmic paean conjures up the rainy wasteland of Aberdeen - the post-industrial town where Cobain grew up. Out of something bleak, hopeless and irreversible Workman has created a thing of beauty.” (Claire Smith)