This year’s Scotsman Fringe Awards, hosted by our chief theatre critic Joyce McMillan, revealed the winners of this year’s Brighton Fringe Award, the Adelaide Fringe’s Holden Street Theatres Award, and the Mental Health Fringe Award, set up by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with the Scotsman and the Tron Theatre.
The Brighton Fringe Award was won by Experiment Human by Hooky Productions, a surreal comedy in which an alien creature called Monkion kidnaps the actor Benedict Cumberbatch; the show is now set to travel to the 2023 Brighton Fringe.
On its way to Adelaide is Bloody Elle, a gig musical written and performed by Lauryn Redding, after winning the Holden Street Theatres Award.
The winner of this year’s Mental Health Fringe Award was Manic Street Creature – already a Fringe First winner – a powerful piece of gig theatre which will now be invited to next year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival. The award is run by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with the Tron Theatre in Glasgow and the Scotsman. Manic Street Creature was described in the Scotsman’s review as a “an engrossing piece filled with evocative, appropriate songs”
Also included in this year’s ceremony were the Filipa Braganca award, which recognises the best solo performance by an emerging female artists; this year’s award was won by Chloe-Ann Tylor for the show Svengali.
The Sit-Up Award, which supports plays that raise awareness about social issues and encourage audiences to ‘take action’ if they are affected by the work on stage, was won by previous Fringe First winner The Beatles Were a Boyband.
The Scotsman Fringe Awards also included live performances by Manic Street Creature creator Maimuna Memon and the casts of Fringe Firsts winners Breathless and Brown Boys Swim.
The awards ceremony opened with week three of The Scotsman’s own Fringe First awards, presented in partnership with the University of Edinburgh – and listed below.
Age Is A Feeling (written by Haley McGee)
Summerhall, until 28 August
What we said: “An entire life is crammed into Age Is A Feeling, but each audience only gets to experience part of it. That is because the solo show from Canada-born, London-based actor and writer Haley McGee has a cleverly conceived structure: twelve intertwined stories from the same life, only six of which are performed at each show. It is a neat idea, an arresting echo of the fact that we only ever see snippets of other people’s lives… It also results in a really nice story, a decades-long, fathoms-deep yarn about life and death, ambition and resentment, illness and ageing, and, well, just about everything that constitutes existence. Directed by Adam Brace, this is a superb performance and a sensitive, smartly structured piece of writing, full of wit and an astonishing amount of wisdom.” (Fergus Morgan)
This Is Not A Show About Hong Kong (written by Max Percy)Underbelly, Cowgate, until 28 AugustWhat we said: “The world tilt towards a dangerous new stand-off between two hostile power-blocs has happened so swiftly, over the last half-decade, that few theatre-makers in the west have yet come to grips with it. For the company presenting This Is Not A Show About Hong Kong, though, there has been no choice in the matter; and over a fragmented but immensely vivid hour, they conjure up a series of impressionistic images of a generation of young Hong Kong people ever more oppressed and hemmed in by increasingly authoritarian rule from Beijing, in direct breach of the promises when the UK handed control of Hong Kong to China, in 1997. The show reminds us that “feeling safe all the time” is an increasingly rare luxury, in a world reeling under new waves of authoritarianism.” (Joyce McMillan)
This Is Memorial Device (adapted by Graham Eatough from the novel by David Keenan)
Wee Red Bar, until 29 August
What we said: “There many shows about fandom on this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; there’s none more poignant, though than This Is Memorial Device, Graham Eatough’s new stage version of the 2017 novel by David Keenan about ‘the greatest band that never existed’, an imaginary punk-art combo from Airdrie in Lanarkshire. Paul Higgins delivers a poignant and beautiful performance as a man still obsessed with those moments of musical glory and communion that shaped their youth; and with that moment, just after the turn of the 80s, when Scottish working-class artists had both the means and the motive to commune with the greatest minds of the 20th century underground and avant-garde, and to create their own counter-culture.” (Joyce McMillan)
Silkworm (written by Vlad Butucea)
Assembly Roxy, until 29 August
What we said: “Britain’s asylum system, and its absurd inhumanities, play a key role in this show by Glasgow-based playwright Vlad Butucea. In a Glasgow tower-block flat, two Nigerian women wait for a Home Office decision on whether they will be allowed to stay in Britain. They are in love, and hope that their status as a gay couple will help them avoid being forced to return to a fiercely homophobic society at home; but their love is more shy and tentative than flamboyant, and the official asylum process - with its endless required revisiting of past trauma - almost impossible to bear. The production perfectly evokes the horror of a world in which the victims of colonialism still have to beg at the gates of an openly racist British immigration system, and a human life has to be reframed as a convincing performance.” (Joyce McMillan)
Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going To Happen (written by Marcelo Dos Santos)
Summerhall, until 28 August
What we said: “In a city full of stand-up comics, this show is an intriguing proposition: a one-man play in which an actor (Samuel Barnett) plays a stand-up comic with enough issues to fill every inch of the Gilded Balloon. In Marcelo Dos Santos’ turbo-fuelled monologue his life and his act flow seamlessly into one another. Our nameless protagonist seems to pass his days in a barely contained state of panic. He sees death everywhere, and sabotages his chances of happiness with cocaine-fuelled Grindr hook-ups with strangers. But then he falls in love, with an American working on a PhD who has “arms like a Disney prince” and “John Singer Sargent eyes”. The only drawback is that the American suffers from cataplexy, a rare nerve condition: if he laughs he could actually die. Dos Santos seems to have an intuitive sense of how stand-up is structured, and Barnett is utterly convincing in his delivery.” (Susan Mansfield)
Scotsman Fringe Awards, Pleasance Beyond (Pleasance Courtyard), Friday 26 August, 10am. Book free tickets here using the promo code FringeAwards22.